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New award to recognise British heroes of the Holocaust

Britons who saved the lives of Jews and other persecuted groups during the Holocaust are to be honoured for their actions.

The Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Communities and Minister for the Cabinet Office today announced plans for an award that recognises the extraordinary acts of courage shown by a number of British citizens.

Britons who made a difference during the Holocaust include Jane Haining from Dunscore in Scotland - who was sent to Auschwitz after caring for 400 Jewish girls in occupied Hungary - and 10 British prisoners of war who rescued a girl from a death march in Poland and hid her in their PoW camp.

The Prime Minister said:

“My visit to Auschwitz left me absolutely determined that we must learn from the past as we build our future. Part of this must be proper recognition for those who made extraordinary contributions to protect others during the Holocaust.

“These heroes, many of whom have now died, are a true inspiration to everyone in Britain. Their actions have already been recognised in part: some have been named as ‘Righteous Among Nations’ by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial authority, and others have had their stories commemorated in Britain in different forms.

“However, I believe that together their brave actions form a critical part of our nation’s wartime history and they deserve to be recognised through a special award.”

Secretary of State for Communities Hazel Blears said:

"The Holocaust is one of history's darkest chapters. Against that background the courage of those who risked their own safety to save others stands out all the brighter.

“That we should now recognise their heroism is not only right: it will ensure that their stories of compassion and humanity inspire generations to come. I pay tribute to the Holocaust Educational Trust and everyone who has lent their voice to its powerful campaign."

Minister for the Cabinet Office Liam Byrne said:

“A small number of British people performed some incredible acts during the Holocaust but for too long their stories have gone untold. They are stories of great bravery, great humanity, but also great humility.

“Individually their stories are moving and inspiring and each deserve our recognition. But honouring these heroes also achieves a national purpose as their stories carry important lessons for us today.

“They help to ensure we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust. They help instil a sense of public service, showing that one person can make a enormous difference. And above all, they remind us how important it is to continue the fight against prejudice, injustice and intolerance.”

The case for recognition was led by the Holocaust Educational Trust and supported by 127 MPs who signed an Early Day Motion calling for the heroes to be honoured.

Notes to editors

  1. The announcement was made by Liam Byrne at Westminster Hall debate this afternoon.
  2. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Minister for the Cabinet Office will be meeting with representatives of the families of the heroes and the Holocaust Educational Trust, as well as Russell Brown MP and representatives from the opposition to discuss precise details of the award. Full details will be published in due course.
  3. Early Day Motion 1175 called for the UK Honours system to be reformed to allow Holocaust heroes to be awarded MBEs and OBEs posthumously.
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