A Holocaust survivor has told Sky News that the language used by Home Secretary Suella Braverman to describe immigrants is “very, very similar” to that used in Nazi Germany against Jewish people.
Joan Salter, 83, had confronted Ms. Braverman during a meeting in her Fareham constituency in Hampshire on Friday evening, to criticize her choice of language. While the home secretary said she “shared a huge amount of concern”, she refused to apologize for her words from her.
Ms Salter went further on Saturday, telling Sky News: “I feel very strongly that the Holocaust ended in the death camps but it started with words, with othering the Jewish people, blaming them for all the problems in Germany, and I am afraid that the actions and words of our home secretary is very, very similar.
“She needs to look into her humanity rather than dehumanizing a group of people many of whom are absolutely desperate.”
Ms Salter, who has been recognized with an MBE for her work on Holocaust education, had claimed at the meeting that Ms Braverman’s rhetoric was similar to that used to justify murdering her family under the Third Reich.
Footage of the exchange, provided by the charity Freedom From Torture, shows Ms Salter saying: “I am a child survivor of the Holocaust.
“In 1943, I was forced to flee my birthplace in Belgium and went across war-torn Europe and dangerous seas until I finally was able to come to the UK in 1947.
“When I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion’, I am reminded of the language used to dehumanize and justify the murder of my family and millions of others.
“Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?”
‘I see my job as being honest’
Ms Braverman thanked Ms Salter for her question, and said she “shared a huge amount of concern and sympathy” over the “challenge” of illegal immigration, adding that her own parents were not born in Britain.
Speaking about her parents, Ms Braverman said: “They owe everything to this country and they have taught me a deep and profound love of Britain and British people. Their tolerance, their generosity, their decency, their fair play.
“That also means that we must not shy away from saying there is a problem. There is a huge problem that we have right now when it comes to illegal migration, the scale of which we have not known before.
“I won’t apologize for the language that I have used to demonstrate the scale of the problem.
“I see my job as being honest with the British people and honest for the British people.
“I’m not going to shy away from difficult truths nor am I going to conceal what is the reality that we are all watching.”
Ms Braverman added that she was “incredibly proud” of the UK’s recent immigration record but added that “we have a problem with people exploiting our generosity, breaking our laws and undermining our system”.
Ms Braverman’s answer was greeted with applause from the audience.
The Home Office response
Born Fanny Zimetbaum in Brussels in 1940 to Polish Jewish parents, Ms Salter was three months old when Belgium was invaded by the Nazis.
Following the invasion, she escaped to France with her mother and sister before being taken by the Red Cross to the US in 1943.
Ms Salter was in foster care in America until being reunited with her parents in 1947 in London, where she has lived ever since.
A statement from the Home Office said the footage of the exchange had been “heavily edited” and did not “reflect the full exchange”.
It added: “The home secretary listened carefully to the testimony. She thanked her for sharing her story.
“The home secretary also expressed her sympathy and set out why it is important to tackle illegal migration.
“Since the footage misrepresents the interaction about a sensitive area of policy, we have asked the organization who posted the video to take it down.”
What language has Ms Braverman used?
Less than a week into her tenure as home secretary under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Ms Braverman referred to her job as being “about stopping the invasion on our southern coast”.
She has said that speaking about the issue is “not xenophobic or anti-immigration” but the “reality recognized and felt by the vast majority of the British public”.