Eighty years after British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden revealed the extent of the Nazi genocide, the UK House of Commons will observe a moment of silence again
It was the moment when parliament first formally recognised the appalling fate of the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis – and MPs rose from their seats in solemn silence.
The date was 17 December 1942 and evidence of the deportation of Jews from occupied countries to eastern Europe was mounting by the day.
Foreign secretary Anthony Eden, when asked about the government’s knowledge of the Nazis’ murderous intentions, spoke of “reliable reports … regarding the barbarous and inhuman treatment to which Jews are being subjected in German-occupied Europe”.
He went on: “The able-bodied are slowly worked to death in labour camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation or are deliberately massacred in mass executions. The number of victims of these bloody cruelties is reckoned in many hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent men, women and children.”
As MPs absorbed the enormity of the statement, and after a few questions about what could possibly be done, the Labour MP William Cluse asked that all colleagues “rise in their places” for a minute of silent protest.
MPs will stand in silence again to mark one of the most poignant occasions in parliament’s history.
Among those attending will be at least four survivors of the Holocaust.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said it was “immensely fitting that people who suffered such appalling cruelty will now be honoured in the heart of our democracy.”