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British Politician criticised for Auschwitz remark

LONDON (Reuters) - Opposition leader David Cameron faced demands for an apology on Saturday after he called government funding for school visits to the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz a "gimmick".

Cameron accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government in a speech on Friday of being "obsessed with short-term gimmicks", including a recommendation to schools to make "trips to Poland".

"We've had a gimmick for every week that Gordon Brown has been prime minister. It would be funny if it wasn't so serious," the Conservative leader said.

A list of 26 gimmicks released to accompany the speech included "Trips to Auschwitz", a Nazi death camp in Poland.

The government announced this month it would give 4.65 million pounds to the Holocaust Educational Trust -- set up in 1988 to educate young people about the Holocaust.

The money will help the trust extend visits to Auschwitz, where some 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls said Cameron had made a "truly disgraceful remark" and should apologise.

"Anyone who has seen the horrors of Auschwitz at first hand knows what a life-changing experience it is," he said in a statement.

The Conservatives sought to quell the storm, saying Cameron was not criticising the visits, but the fact that the government funding did not cover their entire cost.

"School trips to Auschwitz are a brilliant idea ... Under a Conservative government these trips would be funded in full," a party spokesman said.

Labour, hit by a banking crisis and a series of government blunders, trail the Conservatives in opinion polls but Brown does not need to call an election until 2010.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the group had taken more than 5,000 students to Auschwitz and the new government funding would enable it to take another 15,000 students by 2011.

"Students use their experience to raise awareness of the lessons of the Holocaust in their schools and local communities, challenging prejudice and racism today," she said.

Re: British Politician criticised for Auschwitz remark

Poland = Holocaust

Come to Polish death camps.

The Polish govt. should put an end to this nonsense, or at least make sure that they do some of the teaching and not leave it to the under-qualified, under-informed UK teachers to inculcate our new Europeans.

And Cameron is dead right - the Labour govt. is making schools pay for this nonsense ... free school trips to Auschwitz, but not to France (for justified language reasons).

Re: British Politician criticised for Auschwitz remark

Interesting that old wwii allies use auschwitz as a symbol of the perils of racism. Considering they knew about it and knew what was happening there but stood back and did nothing about it. It was the Polish underground who first reported to the allies exactly what was happening. They were not taken seriously until too late.....

Extract from the 2004 link above :

"The numerous wartime photos of Auschwitz taken by RAF reconnaissance pilots have been published on the internet by The Aerial Reconnaissance Archive based at Keele University.

The pictures show thick black smoke rising from crematoriums connected to the gas chambers. Other pictures show smoke billowing from mass funeral pyres. In one, from the summer of 1944, individuals can be made out as they line up for a roll-call.

"It's certain that the British collators [of the pictures] knew of the existence of the concentration camps at that time," the tabloid newspaper wrote. "Why therefore were the extermination camps not destroyed after the reconnaissance planes of the Britons and Americans photographed them in such detail? At the very least, the railway tracks on which the Jews were transported into the extermination camp?"

The newspaper backed up its latest campaign with an assessment by a German historian, Prof Hans-Ulrich Wehler. "From 1942 there were reports by resistance fighters of the construction of concentration camps, but they were not believed at first," he said.

"By 1943 at the latest, London and Washington were informed enough to know that we weren't just talking about prison camps, but pure death camps."

Re: British Politician criticised for Auschwitz remark

Errrm - there was a war on and the Allies had other things to attack which were actually massively helping the German war effort, i.e. the Ruhr valley.
Times change perspectives. Desperate times don't encourage humanitarian gestures - the death camps scarcely registered in terms of war aims.


In WWII, the priorities were:
(i) to defeat Germany
(ii)to spare the lives of as many western Allies troops and civilians as possible - hence dropping the atom bomb in Japan was highly preferable to fighting it out.

Re: British Politician criticised for Auschwitz remark

"Desperate times don't encourage humanitarian gestures "

An interesting statement.

I agree it was not a priority for the allied forces. It was considered and then brushed aside.

So do you think the current attitude for UK kids to visit Auschwitz has elements of retrospective national guilt attached to it?