Saturday, 27 January, 2018

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2018, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust releases the findings of a survey of the UK public on hate speech.

Over a quarter (27%*) of all UK adults have personally witnessed one or more incidents of hate speech in the last year and one in 10 (12%) have witnessed more than five, according to research released today on Holocaust Memorial Day (Saturday 27 January 2018). The online survey, commissioned by Holocaust Memorial Day Trust shows that 41% of those who witnessed hate speech in the last year said they saw an incident based on a person’s race or ethnicity. Over half (59%) witnessed it on social media, 41% in the street, 23% on public transport and just under a quarter (24%) in a pub or shop. When asked to share what they witnessed, many reported seeing anti-immigrant or anti-refugee hate speech, racist abuse or anti-Muslim comments.

People were deeply affected by witnessing hate speech. Two thirds felt angry about what they saw, 45% were shocked and 43% were sorry for the victim. One in five (22%) even worried the incident would lead to a physical attack.

The research shows the public’s concern about the rise of hate speech: Two thirds of UK adults worry about the impact it has on UK society. 82% of those who have witnessed hate speech in the last year said that social media organisations, like Facebook and Twitter, should do more to tackle hate speech online.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, says:

'These findings are shocking. The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 is The power of words and our research shows just how prevalent hate speech is today, and how powerful our words are. We know the repeated use of words normalises dangerous language and allows hatred to take root, which can ultimately lead to persecution. Today is about remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, but also about finding ways to make sure they can never happen again. Recognising the power our words have is an important first step. On Holocaust Memorial Day, please choose to use your words for good.'

Joan Salter, 77, who was separated from her Polish-Jewish family during the war, said:

'In recent times, we have seen the splintering of social cohesion, the growing willingness to express extreme views and the ability of some to act out their intolerance with violent acts. The lack of respect for those of different cultures means we live in dangerous times. We each have a responsibility to learn the lessons of the past, and not allow hatred to take root.'

Today hundreds of thousands of people will come together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at events across the country, and honour the millions killed in the Holocaust and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 

Barbara Winton is daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, the ‘British Schindler’ who rescued 669 children from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, bringing them to the UK and sparing them from the horrors of the Holocaust. She said:

 'In 1939, as today, there were those including mainstream media who used dehumanising language against refugees fleeing destruction and violence and seeking shelter in Britain. Against that current, my father set out to change views and encourage compassion by writing to papers and magazines to present the moral and humane case for accepting vulnerable refugee children and giving them a home. He used the power of words to stir consciences. His rallying cry then seems to me to be just as relevant today when we are faced with what appear to be insurmountable problems, too big for us as individuals to affect. That’s why I feel it is pertinent to tell his story and speak his words, to remind people not only of the need for compassion but also of what can be achieved by a small group of individuals determined not to wait for others to do something, but to take action themselves.'

If you have been a victim of hate crime or seen it happening you can report it. True Vision is an online tool which allows you to report hate crime of any sort directly to the police.  Supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Ministry of Justice, it’s easy to use and ensures that police will begin investigating straight away. Find out more: http://www.report-it.org.uk/