Helena Bonham Carter is among those who will examine what further steps Britain can take to preserve the memory of the Shoah as part of David Cameron’s Commission on the Holocaust.
The Hollywood actress – who has starred in films including Fight Club and The King’s Speech, for which she was nominated for an Oscar – will be joined by the Chief Rabbi, broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky and high-profile representatives of the three main political parties, Ed Balls, Michael Gove and Simon Hughes.
Details of the make-up of the Commission – which was first announced during last year’s Holocaust Educational Trust annual dinner – came on Holocaust Memorial Day and ahead of an historic reception for more than 50 survivors at Downing Street this evening.
From now until end of May, the public are being invited to provide evidence to the Commission before the newly-named commissioners report back to the prime minister before the end of 2014.
Cameron said: “Survivors have played a vital role in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, but we will not always have these remarkable individuals with us. We face a real danger that, as the events of the Holocaust become ever more distant, they feel increasingly remote to current and future generations.
“This cross-party, national Commission representing our whole society will investigate what more needs to be done to ensure Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial and the educational resources needed for generations to come.”
Bonham Carter, whose grandfather Eduardo Propper de Callejon was posthumously recognised for his role in saving hundreds of Jews during the Second World War, said: “I am very honoured to be asked to join this commission and do so in particular memory of those members of my family who died in the Holocaust and as an inherited responsibility to my grandfather who made a significant personal sacrifice to save hundreds of lives.”
She added: “It is our generations’ legacy to create a living memory that will survive the survivors and forever remind future generations of the inhumanity man is capable of committing to its own kind.”
Thanked the PM for “his vision and foresight” in setting up the Commission, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis added: “This is a unique opportunity to shape commemoration and education of the greatest evil perpetuated by man, ensuring that we in Britain learn the lessons and do our utmost to prevent the reoccurrence of such atrocities against any group anywhere in the world.”
Also appointed to the Commission are educator Dame Helen Hyde, Arts Council Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette as well as business leaders Leo Noé and Ruby McGregor-Smith.
A number of regional evidence sessions will also be held over the coming months and a young person will be also be selected from responses to the call for evidence to join the Commission as a youth representative.
The work of the Commission will be supported by two expert groups investigating Holocaust education and commemorative events, memorials and museums.
Describing the Shoah as “the darkest hour in human history”, Commission Chair Mick Davis, who also chairs the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “I urge everyone to share their views on this important issue by responding to the call for evidence we will publish today.”
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “There can be no more fitting assurance to survivors to know that, as their number sadly declines, we are looking ahead to ensure that there is a permanent and fitting memorial to the Holocaust in this country.
The Prime Minister’s national Holocaust Commission is a significant step in achieving that goal.”
Speaking ahead of tonight’s reception, survivor-turned Olympian Ben Helfgott said, “It is a huge honour that the Prime Minister has chosen to join thousands of Holocaust Memorial Day activity organisers across the UK by holding his own reception and inviting survivors of the Holocaust and of subsequent genocides to Downing Street as his guests.”