The Nazis made my uncle scrub the streets...

THE Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby (above) is the son of Jewish immigrants who fled from the Nazis in Germany and Austria.

The Nazis made his Austrian uncle scrub the streets, sent his mother's cousin to her death in a Polish concentration camp and forced his grandparents to flee all over Europe in fear for their lives.

On arriving in London, his father was initially interned as a suspect alien and a possible threat to national security.

It might seem remote from modern Britain, but the Bishop warned there was no room for complacency.

"It's easy to assume we would never have behaved like that and are not to be held accountable, but many things being said now about immigration, asylum seekers and race were said in the 1930s," he said.

"A very mainstream religious journal of the time welcomed Hitler coming to power and said how much good it would do for Germany. We should not think it is nothing to do with us."

Dr Selby's father, a secular Jew, was a 22-year-old student in Berlin when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and was one of the last people with Jewish blood allowed to graduate.

His mother was an Austrian-born Jew and a baptised Christian, who was just 19 when the Nazis took over her country in 1938. The couple escaped, met in London, married in 1939 and brought up their son in the Church of England, although it was not until his Confirmation that his Christian beliefs took root.


Considering whether today's society had learnt anything from the Holocaust, Dr Selby said he believed the dangers of fascism had been recognised.

"But there are some things we still haven't learnt. I do worry about Michael Howard's comments on immigration.

"People have to be very careful how they put these things. It is creating a climate in which people could speak about immigrants meaning black or brown immigrants, when most immigrants are actually from the United States, France and the European Union."

The Bishop, who will be present at Worcester's Holocaust Memorial event, said it was important for all who cherished liberty and respect to remember the Holocaust.

"The Holocaust is a towering event in human history and we should never forget it," he said.

"Of all the events Humankind must never forget, surely the slaughter of millions with the active connivance of millions more must be at the top of the list."

n Worcester's first Asian Mayor, Coun Allah Ditta said he had not personally experienced racism and he believed that being Asian had opened more doors to him as Mayor.

"I think people want to be seen to be welcoming me. I keep getting pats on the back for doing a wonderful job, when I am not doing anything extraordinary," he said.

However, one thing he has done differently is to open up the Mayor's Parlour for two hours each morning to talk to people who previously felt remote from what went on in the Guildhall.

"I wanted to be a people's mayor rather than an organisation's mayor," he said.

Learning from the horrors of the past

n TODAY'S event will include readings related to the different groups who suffered and perished at the hands of the Nazis, not only Jews, but also gipsies, homosexuals, religious groups and political opponents.

The aim is to learn from the past and make a commitment to build a society of tolerance and diversity for the present and the future.

Holocaust Memorial Day was established in 2001 on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in 1945.

This year, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation, the millions of victims of Nazi persecution are being remembered in 13 countries across Europe, including Germany, Italy and France.

The Queen is hosting a private reception for survivors and liberators at St James's Palace and will also attend a Memorial event in Westminster Central Hall, to be televised on BBC2.

Why nation's youth needs to know truth

PRINCE Harry's choice of a Nazi armband as fancy dress underlines one of the aims of Holocaust Memorial Day - to make a new generation aware of the atrocities of the past.

"Prince Harry's Nazi emblem raises the question - what do young people know and what are their attitudes to it?" said the Rev David Morphy, organiser of today's Holocaust Memorial in Worcester's Guildhall.

As head of the Diocesan Board of Education, Mr Morphy is keen to focus on the lessons that can be learnt from the past.

"That means a greater commitment to preparing children to live in a multicultural, multi-faith world," he said.

Because of a restriction on numbers at today's event and the graphic nature of some of the photographs on display, only those aged over 16 have been invited to attend.

But children from as young as seven at Key Stage II are encouraged to read extracts from the Diary of Ann Frank, which documents through the eyes of a child a family's persecution by the Nazis and their ultimate fate in the death camps.


"The Holocaust is also there at Key Stage III and schools can look at other aspects, such as genocide in Rwanda and Darfur, through Citizenship classes.

"We are dependent on how teachers use the curriculum," said Mr Morphy.

He said he would like to see Holocaust Memorial Day become as significant as Remembrance Day in the national calendar, engaging trade unionists, workers and employers.

"We have used the word 'holocaust', which is used to describe what happened to six million Jews, but it was always our intention to commemorate all 12 million of those who were persecuted by the Nazis," he said.

"The first people to go into the concentration camps from 1933 were their political opponents, followed by disabled people and homosexuals.

"The extermination of Jews and other racial groups such as gipsies and Slavs started in 1939."

Appeal for county people's memories

SECOND World War veterans, Land Girls, evacuees, firefighters and others with wartime recollections of Ludlow are being sought in the Worcester area.

They are wanted to take part in the town's celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

Jim Smithers, who is secretary of the Victory House Club, home of the Ludlow branch of the Royal British Legion, is preparing a bid for cash from the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery funds.

Ludlow's main celebration will be on Sunday, July 17.

"We are thinking of a number of ways of celebrating, including a meal using wartime rations," said Mr Smithers.

He needs to hear from veterans by Monday, February 21.

Mr Smithers can be contacted on 01584 872674.