A LEEDS MP has welcomed a £2 million contribution by the UK to the preservation of a former concentration camp site in Poland as an education centre.
After an emotional visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau earlier this year – where more than one million Jews were murdered by the Nazis – Rachel Reeves sought assurances from the Government that it would continue to fund the trips, part of the Holocaust Education Trust’s activities.
The new cash pledge to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation will be delivered over the next three years by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Foreign Office.
Welcoming the funding announcement, Miss Reeves, who visited the site with schoolchildren from Leeds in March, said: “I joined the Holocaust Educational Trust earlier this year as they took children from schools across Yorkshire to Auschwitz. It was an incredibly moving and important experience for everyone who visited the site.”
Chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Lord Greville Janner, said: “Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history and an iconic symbol of the Holocaust. The Holocaust Educational Trust has urged the UK Government to provide financial support for the upkeep of the site for some time and [this] commitment of £2.15 million sends a clear message that we have a responsibility to safeguard the future of the camp.
“Through our Lessons from Auschwitz Project, the Holocaust Educational Trust gives over 3,000 British students each year the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. This announcement will ensure that when young people visit Auschwitz, they will see for themselves what can happen when racism and prejudice is allowed to go unchecked.”
Miss Reeves had earlier voiced her disappointment in parliament after a minister was unable to guarantee Government funding for the trips.
On her return to the Commons, she asked Foreign Ofﬁce minister David Liddington what funding the Government would commit to support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and “ensure that future generations can see what happens when racism and hatred go unchecked?”
The Holocaust Educational Trust provides heavily subsidised trips for students, enabling those from all backgrounds to take part,
Miss Reeves and many Leeds pupils were part of a 200-strong party of post-16 students on the latest trip to the site in March.
Auschwitz and Birkenau were operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II, and opened as a museum in 1947.
Several countries incuding the UK have contributed to maintain the sites.
Announcing the funding, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Auschwitz-Birkenau underlined “the horrific consequences of intolerance”.