The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, underlined the need for a British memorial to the Holocaust on Sunday when he deplored incidences of anti-Semitism which were still taking place.
Addressing a gathering of nearly 100 survivors, who were contributing their thoughts on the design of the proposed Holocaust memorial and learning centre, due to be built next to Parliament, Mr Javid said it was vital to have “a UK memorial which is truly national, and that speaks to the thoughts and the feelings and the experiences of British survivors.”
Mr Javid said it was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build an inspiring, sobering memorial in a jaw-dropping location”.
Those who felt it was not necessary to have a Holocaust memorial “could not be more wrong. In recent weeks, we have seen people proudly marching through an American city with swastika flags held high. We have seen Jewish children as young as eight being chased through London by a man shouting the foulest of anti-Semitic abuse.
“As the Shoah moves towards the edge of living memory, it becomes even more important that we refuse to forget it, that we stand up as a nation and say no, we will not let the past be airbrushed. We will not allow this country to forget what happens when hatred and ignorance and bigotry are allowed to flourish, unchecked.”
Survivors were assessing, for the first time, their thoughts on the shortlist of 10 designs — from a field of 92 global entries.
A winner is set to be picked by the Holocaust Memorial Foundation jury in the next few weeks with the aim of opening the new centre in 2021.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We need a memorial to the Holocaust in this country that befits the magnitude of what that event means to us as a country, as a community, as a member of the human race.
“A memorial that cannot be overlooked, or passed by, or ignored. A memorial that says something about how we consider this history to be important to us as a nation and as a warning for the future. What this memorial and learning centre will be, needs to be shaped by people from all backgrounds and all ages. But in particular, it needs to be shaped by our Holocaust survivors, who are the centre of everything we do.”
Broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky, who has interviewed many of the survivors for a future audio-visual installation in the Learning Centre, addressed the event, and actress Helena Bonham Carter — who is a member of the Holocaust Memorial commission, toured the designs.