One in seven Britons says Holocaust is exaggerated
Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent
Friday January 23, 2004
One British person in seven believes that the scale of the Nazi Holocaust against Jews is exaggerated, according to an opinion poll published today.
The findings of the ICM survey, conducted for the Jewish Chronicle, were described by David Blunkett, the home secretary, as disappointing in an interview with the paper, although the poll also shows that more than two thirds of those questioned disagreed strongly with the revisionist suggestion.
Nearly 20% - one in five - of those questioned also said that a Jewish prime minister would be less acceptable than a member of any other faith. Michael Howard, the Tory leader, is the first Jewish leader of a major political party in recent times.
The poll was conducted to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day next Tuesday.
The editorial said: "We have indeed come a considerable way in recent years towards building a society based on accepting, not fearing difference. But we have part of that journey still to travel. The prize, a modern, genuinely multi-ethnic society, is of incalculable importance, not just for Britain's Jews but for Britons of all creeds and colours."
The poll, conducted by ICM with 1,007 adults in England, Scotland and Wales, found 37% agreeing that Jewish people make a positive contribution to the political, social and cultural life of the country, with 20% disagreeing. Similar proportions were revealed in answer to a question whether Jews have too much influence - 18% agreeing, 47% disagreeing. Asked whether a British Jew would make an equally acceptable prime minister as a member of any other faith, 53% agreed and 18% disagreed - 11% strongly.
The final question asked whether the scale of the Nazi Holocaust had been exaggerated, with 15% agreeing it had been - 10% strongly - and 70% disagreeing, 62% strongly.
Mr Blunkett said: "It means people are prepared to set aside not only the evidence, but the overwhelming emotion that goes with it. They delude themselves into believing that the Nazis are not what we know them to be and this is very depressing."
Nevertheless, Jewish academics said the findings indicated that anti-semitism in Britain was lower than in the US or other parts of Europe.
Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the Hebrew University's Vidal Sassoon centre for the study of anti-semitism, said: "It's a better result than many British Jews might have expected."
The findings showed highest levels of prejudice among working class pensioners - more than a quarter of whom believed Jews had too much influence - but also among some 18 to 24-year-olds, despite the Holocaust education many of them will have received.
Around 19% of recent school leavers believed the event had been exaggerated.
A Tory party spokesman told the paper: "Politicians should be judged only on their policies and their party's beliefs. Religion is of no relevance."
Jim Murphy, Labour MP for Eastwood and a board member of the Labour Friends of Israel, said: "We like to believe these views are confined to a minority on the hard right but this poll suggests otherwise."
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/print/0, ... 47,00.html