As the size of Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island still haunts me, I had always rejected the idea of visiting Auschwitz because I feared my tears would make the trip about me and not the victims. But thanks to persuasion from my longtime friend Richard Glynn, a former CEO of the bookies Ladbrokes, I spent most of Thursday at the camps an hour from Krakow in Poland. Nothing prepares you for Auschwitz. The stats are stark: 1.1 million victims, mainly Jewish, perhaps 230,000 of them children. If you didn’t die in the gas chamber, you would die in the field, because the SS gave prisoners so little food that they would lose weight and be gone in three months. My abiding memory was the shoes. The little shoes. The large shoes. The dust-covered shoes. Those victims were not forgotten. I had seen their shoes. Only 8 per cent of SS guards ever faced a court. Why? At the end of the day these mass murderers would return to their homes outside the camps to play with their children and cuddle their wives. Is this a German thing, or do we all have murder in our hearts? One other question: if it had been six million Christians, six million Muslims, six million Hindus or six million Sikhs murdered, would Holocaust Memorial Day be a bigger event? I fear so. Anti-Semitism is alive and well.
This is an extract from Kelvin MacKenzie's Diary, which appears in this week's Spectator