Deputy First Minister unprepared for Auschwitz

DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney MSP attended a Holocaust Educational Trust ambassadors' reception.

The HET hosted the event in Edinburgh for its young ambassadors from across Scotland.

They were joined by guests including MSPs and survivors Henry and Ingrid Wuga, who came to the UK on the Kindertransport and settled in Glasgow.

The ambassadors have participated in HET's Lessons from Auschwitz project, which is supported by a grant from the Scottish government.

The purpose of the event was to highlight work undertaken by HET young ambassadors in safe-guarding the memory of the Holocaust and sharing its continuing relevance today.

The keynote speech was given by Mr Swinney, who recently joined Scottish students on a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Trust.

The Deputy First Minister praised the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust and the extraordinary impact of the Lessons from Auschwitz project.

Guests also heard from HET chief executive Karen Pollock and Trust ambassadors John Dickson and Phoebe Hayman from Knox Academy in East Lothian.

Mr Swinney said: "Nothing could have prepared me for the moment I stepped through the gates of Auschwitz. Of course I have seen images of the infamous sign 'Arbeit Macht Frei', but there is a world of difference between reading about the Holocaust in books and seeing for myself those chilling words above the entrance to a place where millions ultimately lost their lives.

"Visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau reminded us all of the very real dangers hatred and prejudice can bring.

"But it is not enough to simply remember the horrors of the past. We all have to work together, day in and day out, to spread love, respect and tolerance and to make sure nothing like this can ever be allowed to happen again.

"And that is why the Lessons from Auschwitz programme is so important.

"It was a special privilege to share my visit with so many fine young people from across Scotland who were a credit to their parents, their families and their schools.

"Their presence and the quiet dignified way in which they took in this awful episode in history, gave me the greatest hope for a future built on tolerance and free from hatred."

Ms Pollock said: "It is more important than ever to educate the next generation about the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism, hatred and prejudice.

"In these increasingly fragile times, we are so grateful for the continued support by the Scottish government for our Lessons from Auschwitz project.

"I know that having joined us, the Deputy First Minister will share our belief that this project is changing the lives of thousands of Scottish young people and empowering them to be able to speak out whenever they see the truth of the Holocaust called into question."

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