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Swedish Jews welcome Auschwitz school trip

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The notorious 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (work sets you free) sign at the entrance gate of the concentration camp. Photo: AP
14:57 CEST+02:00
A prominent spokesperson for Sweden's Jewish community has told The Local that she was "very happy" with the government's decision to sponsor school trips to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Sweden's Minister for EU Affairs Birgitta Ohlsson has pledged to spend five million kronor ($749,000) to send 400 pupils and 40 teachers to visit the former German Nazi concentration camp in present day Poland.

In an op-ed in the Expressen newspaper Ohlsson said the move was necessary to educate Swedish children about the horrors of the Holocaust, particularly in the wake of neo-Nazi parties gaining seats in the recent European elections.

"I'm very happy to hear that the government is doing this. It's generous and conveys a strong message that we must never forget what happened at Auschwitz," Lena Posner-Korosi, President of the Council of Sweden's Jewish communities, told The Local.

Korosi said she was delighted to read the news.

"I applaud Birgitta Ohlsson. She is very informed about the issues and is a very knowledgable person," she said.

Under the terms of the programme the five million kronor will be allocated to the Swedish committee against anti-Semitism. In addition to the visit to Auschwitz there will be pre and post seminars involving Holocaust survivors to give participants a greater understanding of the tragedy.

"Nazi vile and industrial extermination of six million Jews, incomprehensible cruelty against Roma, LGBT people, individuals with disabilities, religious and political dissidents is unique in its kind in world history," Ohlsson wrote in the Expressen article.

Lena Posner-Korosi told The Local that it was imperative for pupils to visit Auschwitz as she has done in the past.

"My mother-in-law managed to survive Auschwitz. She was 16 when she got out and when I spoke to her about it she remembered everything. The horrors of life in the barracks and the atrocities that went on," she said.

"When you go there and see for yourself how they lived and all the suitcases in the museum it really gets to you. For me it was a very emotional experience."

The recent success of far-right parties in the EU elections is a cause of concern for both Ohlsson and Posner-Korosi.

In Sweden there have been numerous incidents of anti-Semitism in the last few years, a Stockholm school was daubed with Nazi graffiti while the Jewish community centre in Malmö was bombed.

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"We are seeing this happening all over Europe where parties with a clear Nazi agenda are being elected," said Posner-Korosi.

"In Sweden these type of attacks are nothing new. When you see what happened at the Jewish museum in Brussels where people were killed by an extremist, that could easily have happened in Sweden."

Ohlsson said the programme is expected to be multi-year, with the first students to begin the seminars later in the autumn.

"If it happened once then it can happen. Young people need to know what really happened as there are a lot of Holocaust deniers out there. Teaching democracy is number one," concluded Posner-Korosi

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