Ed Davey – 2021 Speech on Holocaust Memorial Day

The speech made by Ed Davey, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats, on 28 January 2021.

I pay tribute to everyone who has spoken in this debate so far, not least the last very moving speech by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). I would like to start my contribution by reading a couple of lines from the memoir of Gerda Weissmann Klein, who was 18 when she was sent to the first of several concentration camps, Bolkenhain. She wrote:

“Ilse, a childhood friend of mine, once found a raspberry in the concentration camp and carried it in her pocket all day to present to me that night on a leaf. Imagine a world in which your entire possession is one raspberry and you give it to your friend.”

For me, those words simultaneously drive home the holocaust horrors, while exemplifying the compassion and generosity that existed even in those most awful conditions. It shows us that Ilse Kleinzahler, a young woman in a concentration camp with nothing in the world but a raspberry, could be the light in that unimaginable darkness.

Years later, Gerda said:

“I like to remember some of the things in camp, how people helped each other. I want to tell young people about that—that there was friendship and love and caring.”

Like so many accounts from holocaust survivors, the story has a heartbreaking coda. Ilse died on a death march a week before Gerda was liberated. They were holding each other’s hand. We must never forget the atrocities of the holocaust—never—how Ilse and 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis and the inhumanity inflicted on humans by humans. We must remember, so that we try harder to stop it happening again, as it has, tragically, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and elsewhere, as other colleagues have said. We must be vigilant in our opposition to hatred, discrimination and oppression and vigilant in defence of peace, respect and human rights.

Let us also remember, as Mrs Klein does, the friendship, the love and the caring that existed even amidst all that horror. If those qualities can exist in a Nazi concentration camp in the middle of the holocaust, they can certainly exist now. No matter how difficult things are, how big our challenges may be or how dark the days might seem, we can still find those most human of qualities. We can still care for each other, we can still love each other and we can still be the light in the darkness.