Emotional stories of the persecution of councillors’ families and visits to concentration camps have led debates around tackling anti-Semitism in local councils recently.
North Kesteven District and City of Lincoln Councils are among the latest authorities in the UK to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Anti-Semitism.
It reads: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.
“Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The aim is to clearly define and give all organisations the same understanding of the term.
The definition has also been adopted by a number of national and international organisations across the world, including the European Union, the United Nations, the City of London, football clubs, universities, and other religious and cultural leaders.
At North Kesteven District Council, which approved a motion in December, Councillor Ian Carrington told the authority of his grandfather, who, on a cold winter’s night was picked up by a group of men while wandering the streets of Warsaw in Poland.
He was bundled into a car and “never seen again alive”, said Councillor Carrington.
“I’ve no idea whether he died in one of the death camps or died in an SS bunker,” he said.
Many members of Councillor Carrington’s father’s family did not survive the Second World War.
“It’s only really by the grace of God and historical fluke that my father survived and I’m here,” he said.
“The point is that my grandfather wasn’t Jewish, he wasn’t a communist or a political agitator he was just basically in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“But such was the way that cancer of anti-Semitism spread it became acceptable to the Nazis to pick people off the streets and kill for revenge or for whatever reason they felt.
“It started with anti-Semitism, a massive evil in its own right, but things go even worse if we don’t quell it.”
On Tuesday, the City of Lincoln Council councillor Eddie Strengiel told of how his father, who at the age of 19 was in the Polish Cavalry, was captured several times and made a number of escapes. He was a Roman Catholic.
He also told how his uncle’s mum and dad were forced to work the fields, eating whatever they could scrounge. His aunt, experimented on by Nazi’s, was unable to bear children.
“This place called Łódź had the biggest concentration. They call it a Jewish ghetto in Poland and they used to transport not just Jewish people, Romanies, beggars, and others, but mainly Jewish.
“I’ve been there. I’ve seen what used to be the ghetto. I saw the places where they were taken from.
“There’s a lot of history, and the side effects of this hatred doesn’t affect just one community, it has a knock-on effect.”
His father, having joined the British Army at the end of the war, still could not go back to Poland afterwards due to the Soviet Union’s occupation of parts of the country.
Councillor Strengiel concluded: “Let’s try and put the past behind us but ensure that the past never happens again.”
Several councillors during the debates also spoke of their chilling and often-difficult experiences during visits to camps such as Auschwitz had on them and those they were with.
Other councils to have adopted the IHRA definition include North East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire Council.
North Lincolnshire Council also has plans for a new holocaust memorial sculpture in Scunthorpe Town Centre.
South Kesteven District Council will discuss adopting the motion next week.
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