Donate Newsletter

Holocaust and genocide survivors experience abuse in the UK

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2017, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust released the findings of a survey of Holocaust and genocide survivors and refugees, and the their families.

More than a quarter (27%) of survivors of the Holocaust and of genocides that followed, living in the UK, have experienced discrimination or abuse linked to their religion or ethnicity, according to findings from a survey of UK-based survivors released today on Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2017). Survivors’ relatives are even more likely to have been affected, with over a third (38%) saying they have experienced race or faith-linked hatred.
This is despite the fact that the vast majority (72%) of survivors say they felt very or fairly welcome when they arrived in Britain.
The findings have been released from a survey of Holocaust and genocide survivors who have rebuilt their lives here in the UK.
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Chief Executive Olivia Marks-Woldman says:
‘It’s shocking to think that these individuals, having survived some of the very worst acts in human history, have experienced hatred and discrimination on the streets of the country that is now their refuge. While many acts of hate are defined as crimes in the UK, the fact that persecution on the grounds of faith or race has continued, serves as a valuable reminder of the how vital Holocaust Memorial Day is, and how as a society we must reflect on what survivors’ experiences can teach us, in order to build a better future.’
Despite feeling welcome in the UK, most survivors (52%) say they waited for more than 20 years before starting to talk about their experiences, with 60% motivated to break their silence by a desire to help wider society understand what happened.
Joan Salter is a Holocaust survivor who was three months old when Belgium was invaded by the Nazis.
‘My father was deported and my mother imprisoned. I was put on a boat by the Red Cross in 1943 and sent to live with a foster family in America until I was eventually reunited with my parents in London two years after the war finished. It was anything but a fairytale ending though – both my parents were severely traumatised by what they’d experienced, broken in health, spirit and mind.’
‘Everyone deals with these things in their own ways. My mother was never able to talk about what had happened to her, it was just too painful. While I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of time sharing my family’s story to help people understand the Holocaust, in the hope that by understanding, we can tackle discrimination and hatred in all its forms. I’ve heard many reactions along the way, not all of them supportive unfortunately. I spoke at a school once, and asked the children what they had expected to hear from me. One boy replied that he expected me to ‘tell lies’ about the past. That was a real shock.’
Olivia Marks-Woldman added:
‘For many survivors, their experiences are still very raw, and it’s never easy to think back to those times, yet they are determined to share their stories to help tackle intolerance and prejudice. The length of time it took for many Holocaust survivors to start opening up about what happened suggests many of those who survived Rwanda and Bosnia may only now feel ready to start talking about their experiences, as we reach 20 years since those terrible events. We must all make sure we play our part in supporting them in sharing those stories, and acknowledging the terrible threats that discrimination can pose for our societies. We cannot allow hatred to take hold.’
The results also show that over a quarter (27%) of survivors still think about their experiences every single day. Despite that, many have taken something positive from what happened to them, with 40% saying their experiences have made them appreciate life more.
The YouGov research polled 208 Holocaust refugees, survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides including Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia, and 173 of their family members.