Jews face a ‘wave’ of hate crime with a rise of 1,350% in incidents in just one month

Janine Webber BEM is one of the few who can still testify in person to the descent into genocide (Picture: Getty/Vanessa Short)

As events take place to mark the 79th anniversary of the Holocaust, one of the few remaining survivors is still fighting for freedom.

Janine Webber, 91, continues to speak out against intolerance and persecution as the commemoration falls at a time of international conflict.

Holocaust Memorial Day, which this year has the theme of the Fragility of Freedom, is being accompanied by a warning that Jewish people in Britain are facing a ‘wave’ of antisemitic hate crime. 

Janine, from north London, is one of the few who can still testify in person to the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War Two.

She was a little girl when the Nazis invaded her home city of Lvov in Poland, now Lviv in western Ukraine, and narrowly survived the tyranny that claimed the lives of family including her parents and little brother.

‘As a Holocaust survivor I know how precious, how fragile freedom is,’ Janine said. 

‘During the Second World War I had to hide, to pretend I was someone else. My freedom to be Jewish did not exist. It took me many years to admit who I really was. I lost most of my family because as Jews they were not accepted as normal human beings.

‘I want to fight for freedom to live like everyone else and not to have to suppress my identity. 

‘I fight by speaking up and by talking to adults and children from all walks 
of life about my own experiences, through my work with the Holocaust Educational Trust, in the hope that they will learn the lessons of the past.  

‘And to encourage them to speak out against discrimination and persecution, wherever it occurs, so that nothing like the Holocaust can ever happen again.’ 

Janine Webber is fighting with words and education to prevent some of Europe’s darkest days being repeated (Picture: Tanya Harris)

Falling on January 27 each year, the day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.  

This year, the commemoration falls as Vladimir Putin’s all-out attack on Ukraine continues to wreak a terrible price in the lives of civilians and those fighting the Russian aggression.  

Another survivor, Steven Frank, told last year how the invasion, which has brought allegations of Russian war crimes and stories of mass deportations, was reminiscent of the dark times he lived through. 

The Israel-Palestine conflict and wider tensions across the Middle East are another part of the international insecurity.  

In London, there was a 1,350% increase in hate crimes against Jewish people in the first three weeks of October 2023 at the outset of the Israel-Palestine conflict, according to the Metropolitan Police.

Janine Webber as a girl with her mother Lipka and brother Tunio before the Nazi invasion of Poland (Picture: Via Holocaust Memorial Trust)

Islamophobic offences also rose over the same period; an increase of 140% from 42 in 2022 to 103 during the same period.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), said: ‘This year we mark Holocaust Memorial Day at a difficult time.

‘We come together to remember the six million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust, yet at the same time we are aware that antisemitism is alive and well, we see it on our streets and online. I cannot imagine how Holocaust survivors must feel after all they have experienced.’ 

Ms Pollock warned that the descent into mass murder was a creeping process, reflected in the day’s theme referring to the restriction of freedoms being the first step on the path to genocide.

‘As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day, we remember that the Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers, but with small incremental steps,’ she said.  

‘There was the mocking of Jewish children in schools, the taunting of Jewish people in newspapers and magazines, the banning of Jewish people from certain professions, the marking of Jewish people with a yellow star, the erosion of their rights and liberties.  

‘We remember all of the freedoms taken from Jewish people, that all paved the way for the rounding up of Jews across Europe, and eventually their murder in fields, ravines, ditches, and purpose-built killing sites.

‘We honour those who survived the unimaginable, who have been sharing their stories for decades in the hope that antisemitism, finally exposed for what it is, would never again be allowed to take hold.

‘And we reflect on the lessons we all still have to learn from the horrors of the past.’ 

Colourised images of the Holocaust show the terrors faced by inmates in Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp (Picture Media Drum/Tom Marshall)

Ms Pollock expressed the HET’s solidarity with Holocaust survivors and their families during a ‘wave of anti-Jewish hatred’.

The Met’s figures are backed up by the Community Security Trust, a British charity providing safety for the Jewish community in the UK, which has reported a ‘huge spike’ in antisemitic hate crimes since the Hamas-led terror attack on October 7.  

The mass incursion was the largest murder of Jewish people on a single day since the Holocaust.

‘One of the most important lessons of the Holocaust is how easily and quickly a society, with all of its widely accepted moral and cultural norms, can fall apart – and how readily some fellow citizens will participate in that process,’ Ms Pollock said.  

‘In this country we hold to some fundamental values which include individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs. This year, as we come together to reflect on Holocaust Memorial Day, we stand side by side with Holocaust survivors and their families.

‘For their sakes and for the sake of future generations, we must stand up to this current wave of anti-Jewish hatred to ensure that this breakdown of society will never be repeated, and our values will always be maintained.

‘After 79 years of hearing the phrase “never again”, this Holocaust Memorial Day we have to mean it.’ 

The Holocaust claimed the lives of six million Jews who are among those being remembered on the memorial day (Picture: Getty)

The memorial day also remembers the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, with the HET saying each of the stains on history began with the perpetrators curtailing people’s freedoms.

People are encouraged to take part by placing a lighted candle in their window tonight and watching curated moments from this year’s ceremony, which took place at the London Guildhall on Wednesday.

In a recorded video address to the event, Rishi Sunak condemned the ‘despicable resurgence of antisemitism’.

The prime minister said: ‘It is sickening that Jewish people are once again facing the most abhorrent antisemitism in this country.’ 

Run by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the commemoration includes more than 10,000 activities across the UK on the same date each year.  

Another survivor, Susan Pollack, 93, has also shared her story with as part of today’s anniversary.

For more information about Holocaust Memorial Day, click here  

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