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My Ilford Recorder column (20 November 2014)

The remarkable pictures sent by the spacecraft Rosetta and its landing craft from the surface of a comet show us that humankind is capable of wonderful things.

This was only possible because of long term co-operation, collective endeavour and expenditure by the European Space Agency. The European Union is not just about trade, but also about scientific progress, educational and industrial co-operation and achievement.

But science and human endeavour can be used for good or for evil. I recently went with the Holocaust Educational Trust and two hundred sixth formers to Oswiecim in Poland to the sites of the concentration and extermination camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, where terrible, almost unspeakable genocidal crimes of the Nazis occurred just 70 years ago.  

I will never forget the railway tracks,  the cell blocks where Jews, Roma gypsies, and Soviet prisoners of war were worked to death as slave labour, shot, or sent to gas chambers . It is estimated that around 1.2 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau.The piles of spectacle frames, children's clothes and shoes brought home to me the planned systematic nature of this industrial killing machine.    

The Nazis came to power by seizing on economic crisis and unemployment and blaming minorities with their ideology of racial superiority and hostility to others.  Their invasion of Poland caused the Second World War.  

After the War six European countries led by France, West Germany and Italy established co-operation which has led to today's peaceful and much more prosperous European Union of 28 countries including Poland and other central and East European countries. We must continue to work together with our European Union partners and to oppose racism, extremism and anti immigrant parties both in this country and elsewhere in Europe. 


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