One in four genocide survivors in UK have faced abuse, poll finds
More than one-quarter of survivors of the Holocaust and the genocides that followed who are living in the UK have experienced discrimination or abuse linked to their religion or ethnicity, research released to mark Holocaust Memorial Day shows.
The figure is higher for survivors’ relatives, with 38% saying they have experienced racial or religious hatred, according to the poll released by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) on Friday.
This is despite the fact that the vast majority of survivors (72%) told the survey they felt very or fairly welcome when they first arrived in Britain.
Most survivors (52%) said they had waited more than 20 years before starting to talk about their experiences, with 60% saying they eventually did so to help wider society understand what had taken place.
The research involved 208 survivors of genocides including the Holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Darfur, and 178 of their family members.
Joan Salter, who was three months old when Belgium was invaded by the Nazis in 1940, said: “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. 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.”
The research showed that more than 25% of survivors think about their experiences every day. Despite that, many have taken something positive from what happened to them, with 40% saying what they went through had made them appreciate life more.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, the chief executive of HMDT, said: “It’s shocking to think that these individuals, having survived some of the very worst acts in human history, have experience 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 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.”
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