More than a quarter of survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides living in the UK have suffered discrimination or abuse over their religion or ethnicity, new research has found.
The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust research, which showed 27% of survivors experienced this was published on Friday, the day that commemorates the millions killed in the Nazi genocide.
Anti-semitic bullying, jeering, workplace discrimination and Holocaust denial are among the forms of abuse directed at survivors, the trust research reveals.
Relatives of survivors are even more likely to have been affected by such abuse, with 38% saying they have faced hate over their race or faith.
The findings come after the post-Brexit hate crime surge and a warning from the president of a head of a body representing Europe’s Jews that this and the current political climate have “parallels with the darkest days of the 1930s”.
The number of hate crimes reported to police rose by 41% in the month following the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union.
Joan Salter, a Holocaust survivor who was three months old when Belgium was invaded by the Nazis in 1940, said she has encountered hostility while giving talks at schools.
Salter said: “I spoke at a school once, and asked the children what they had expected to hear from me.
“One boy replied that he expected me to ‘tell lies’ about the past. That was a real shock.”
Salter, whose mother was imprisoned and father deported, was sent to live with a foster family in America in 1943 before being reunited with her parents in London two years after the war ended.
“It was anything but a fairytale ending though – both my parents were severely traumatised by what they’d experienced, broken in health, spirit and mind,” she said.
“Everyone deals with these things in their own ways. My mother was never able to talk about what had happened to her. It was just too painful.
“While I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of time sharing my family’s story to help people understand the Holocaust, in the hope that by understanding, we can tackle discrimination and hatred in all its forms.
“I’ve heard many reactions along the way, not all of them supportive unfortunately.”
Olivia Marks-Woldman, Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chief executive, said: “It’s shocking to think that these individuals, having survived some of the very worst acts in human history, have experienced hatred and discrimination on the streets of the country that is now their refuge.
“While many acts of hate are defined as crimes in the UK, the fact that persecution on the grounds of faith or race has continued, serves as a valuable reminder of the how vital Holocaust Memorial Day is, and how as a society we must reflect on what survivors’ experiences can teach us, in order to build a better future.”
Despite feeling welcome in the UK, most survivors (52%) say they waited for more than 20 years before starting to talk about their experiences, with 60% motivated to break their silence by a desire to help people understand what happened.
The YouGov research polled 208 Holocaust refugees, Holocaust survivors and subsequent genocides including Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia, and 173 of their family members.
Marks-Woldman added: “The length of time it took for many Holocaust survivors to start opening up about what happened suggests many of those who survived Rwanda and Bosnia may only now feel ready to start talking about their experiences, as we reach 20 years since those terrible events.
“We must all make sure we play our part in supporting them in sharing those stories, and acknowledging the terrible threats that discrimination can pose for our societies.
“We cannot allow hatred to take hold.”