The speech made by Mark Tami, the Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside, in the House of Commons on 28 January 2021.
It is nearly 76 years since the end of the second world war in Europe, but the lessons that the world needs to learn from the events that culminated in the holocaust remain as relevant today as they were then. The holocaust did not begin and end with Auschwitz and the other extermination camps; its roots lay in the falsehoods and hatred that festered for centuries before and continue to exist today.
In the 1920s and 1930s, that hate and antisemitism was whipped up at rallies, and pamphlets were published that transformed Germany from an advanced liberal democracy into a vicious dictatorship. Today, that poison and those lies have not gone away. We rarely see the mass rallies and events, but the battle has moved online, where hate speech and holocaust denial can be found at a disturbing level. There are those who hide behind the idea that somehow this should be allowed, under some perverse idea that it is free speech.
The other night, I re-watched the excellent David Baddiel documentary in which he made contact with holocaust deniers. I was particularly struck by his concerns about what he termed to be “soft” holocaust denial—the idea that, yes, something may have gone on, but that it has been exaggerated and somehow blame lies on all sides. This is extremely dangerous. We see today populist Governments in Poland and Hungary seeking to rewrite history, to airbrush out the involvement of their countrymen and women in terrible crimes.
I believe that the holocaust is not just a terrible one-off event that happened in our history, carried out by a madman and his thugs. The truth is very different. Before the establishment of mechanised extermination in death camps, Einsatzgruppen squads followed the German advance into eastern Europe and Russia, shooting over 2 million men, women and children. These groups were led not by so-called thugs but by a university lecturer, a theologian, a doctor. These should be warnings to us about how this can take over.
History teaches us the events of the past, but it is also a warning for our future. The holocaust is a fact. There are no alternative facts, and we should never allow that to be said.