Holocaust Memorial Day more vital than ever in world of ‘half-truths’, says survivor

Robert Dex
·2 min read
<p>Ernest Simon</p> (Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)

Ernest Simon

(Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)

One of the survivors taking part in today’s socially-distanced Holocaust Memorial Day says it is needed more than ever.

Ernest Simon fled Austria in 1939 as a child having witnessed Nazi mobs burn Jewish prayer books on the street where he lived and now volunteers to speak about his experiences to young people.

He said the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, where he volunteers, is “incredibly important”.

The 90-year-old, from north west London, said: “I’m trying to get young people to think clearly about things like racism and xenophobia and I think my story and the story of my other colleagues in the holocaust can help young people to see the dangers of the sort of things that happened, making sure they can think for themselves, making sure they can analyse for themselves what they hear and what they read about.

“There are too many recent examples of how people have misused the power of words and how this can lead entire communities, large groups of people, in the wrong direction.”

He said recent events in the United States, when a mob encouraged by former President Trump stormed the Capitol building, showed there was still a need to hear stories like his.

He added: “This is the power of words and how people are influenced. Information which has half-truths in it and young people have to learn how to tell what half-truths are.”

Mr Simon said he has missed his usual school and college visits, having only done one session over Zoom in the last nine months, but added he hoped tonight’s ceremony would reach a wider audience than usual.

Households around the UK are being encouraged to light a candle and place it in a window at 8pm to remember victims of genocide while landmarks from The London Eye to BT Tower and Wembley Stadium will be lit up in purple.

The Holocaust Educational Trust is holding a virtual memorial event with former Foreign Secretary David Miliband among the speakers.

Mr Simon, who along with his 88-year-old wife had his first Coronavirus vaccination two weeks ago, said he understood why this year had to be different, saying: “It’s a pity the service can’t take place but I understand it.

“ I think what is taking place on Wednesday evening is maybe second best but on the other hand it will be seen by far more people than normally see it in a hall in Westminster”.

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