I can’t get worked up about Cameron calling Brown’s decision to spend £4.6 million on funding trips by a small proportion of school children to Auschwitz a gimmick. David Cameron calls a lot of reasonable New Labour initiatives gimmicks. Since he has spoken up against attacks on Israel’s existence, in praise of a number of quintessentially conservative attributes (for what these are worth!) which he approves of in the visible Jewish community, and in opposition to antisemitism, and since he never makes malicious or ignorant comments about Jewish power or Jewish conspiracy, there is no reason to view his opinions as symptomatic of some larger project to diminish the holocaust. Perhaps they were insensitive but take them in context and they are certainly not sinister.
I think that the Lessons From Auschwitz project – based on the idea that “hearing is not the same as seeing” – is an excellent idea. But it’s fine to wonder whether government funding for it is the best way to foster population-level insights about genocide. Visits by 15,000 students to Auschwitz is a small-scale measure for bright, confident students who can understand messages and take them back to their schools. I can’t see any sort of evaluation on the site – whether society’s understanding will improve as a result of these trips seems to be a matter of faith or hope. There are alternatives – £4.6 million would fund a multimedia online museum, available any place, any time, and to anyone, royally.