Former education minister hails cash for Holocaust project

Young survivors at Auschwitz-Birkenau, liberated on 27th January 1945
Young survivors at Auschwitz-Birkenau, liberated on 27th January 1945

Northern Ireland’s former education minister has said cash has been found to re-instate a project which aims to educate people about the Holocaust.

DUP education spokesman Peter Weir, who was the last education minister at Stormont before a Sinn Fein walkout forced the Assembly to collapse in early 2017, said it was fitting that the news had emerged just ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Mr Weir, MLA for Strangford, said that the UK-wide ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ project – run by the Holocaust Education Trust – had operated for years in Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland.

He said that, in essence, it involved paying for schoolchildren to fly to Auschwitz, with the view being that upon their return they would tell other pupils what they had learned.

The first time the scheme was introduced in Northern Ireland was in 2017; at that time the Department for Education found £180,000 for the scheme.

However, he said it was not funded in 2018.

Now he told the News Letter the cash is to be routed to the project via the Community Relations Council.

Mr Weir said this follows “work with several government departments and lengthy lobbying from the DUP and the Holocaust Educational Trust”.

“The history and lessons of the Holocaust must always be remembered, to ensure that those who perished are not forgotten but are honoured, and that the vilest chapter in human history is not repeated,” he said.

Holocaust Memorial Day falls this Sunday, January 27.

It is the same day that the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was overrun by Soviet forces, freeing the remaining victims who were still alive.

It is estimated that more than 1.1 million people died at that single camp alone.