March 08, 2009

Hersham councillor Lara Conaway criticised for Auschwitz analogy

An Elmbridge councillor has been criticised after comparing South West Train (SWT) facilities with Nazi concentration camps.

Speaking at a council meeting on Thursday night, Tory Councillor Lara Conaway, who represents Hersham South, made the comments during a question and answer session with SWT stakeholder manager Phil Dominey. As well as comparing the tunnel running under the station with Auschwitz, she also described the queues of people trying to leave the station after alighting from trains with the Nazi-run prisoner of war camp Colditz.

But Dr Stephen Smith MBE, director of the Holocaust Centre, described her analogy with the concentration camp as inappropriate and offensive.

Coun Conaway told Mr Dominey: “I am a daily user of Walton station. The steps for the majority of the users are too small - people are struggling to get out of the station. The queues of people getting off the platform is huge. There is a safety issue - it’s like Colditz. The tunnel underneath the station is like walking into Auschwitz. It’s dripping with damp mould.”

Earlier in the meeting, Mr Dominey had told the councillors that people, in danger of missing their train because of long queues at ticket machines, could legally board the trains without tickets, as long as they made themselves known to the train guard. However, Coun Conaway, making another Nazi analogy, said there was a “massive distinction” between Mr Dominey’s suggestion and reality, as the SWT guards were like “Hitlers in suits”.

Dr Smith, who set up the Holocaust Centre based in Nottinghamshire, said he hoped Coun Conaway used the criticism as an opportunity to learn more about Auschwitz.

He said: “It is important not to cheapen the unique experience of the Nazi Holocaust in the public mind. This is not a matter of political correctness, but education. I hope that, if Coun Conaway takes the opportunity to learn more about the reality of Auschwitz, she will quickly realise the inappropriateness and offensiveness of the analogy.”

A spokesman for SWT agreed that Coun Conaway’s comments were not appropriate. The spokesman said: “While it is disappointing Coun Conaway is unhappy with the lay out of Walton station, we agree with Dr Smith that it is inappropriate to compare the station with Auschwitz.”

Your Local Guardian

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