A stunning shortlist of designs for the proposed new National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre went on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum this week. This comes as survivors at the launch warned about the dangers of letting prejudice go unchecked, and urged support for the project as their legacy when there are no longer first-hand witnesses.
Ninety-two designers and architects worldwide submitted designs for the memorial, which will be built on ground next to Parliament and is scheduled to open in 2021.
The shortlist of 10 is on show for three weeks to the public at the V&A and comprises scale models of the designs, together with video testimonies from more than 100 British survivors, Kindertransporte refugees, and rescuers.
Opening the exhibition of designs at the V&A’s Raphael galleries, Tristram Hunt, the former Labour MP who is now director of the museum, said the new centre would help people “think about representations of resilience and survival. The new centre will stand against all forms of hatred and extremism in the modern world”.
Mr Hunt said the V&A was “honoured” to have the Holocaust memorial designs on show and welcomed survivors Joan Salter, Peter Lantos and Mala Tribich, who spoke at the launch.
— Tristram Hunt (@TristramHuntVA) August 1, 2017
Joan Salter, who was separated from her parents in Vichy France and was reunited with them in the UK in 1947, warned: “The Germany of yesterday could so easily become the Britain of tomorrow”.
All the survivors emphasised the importance of having an educational legacy to tell people about the Holocaust long after they were dead.
And Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation,drew parallels with the present-day commemorations of the First World War. He said: “We have no survivors of the First World War — and yet we can show that it is possible to investigate, commemorate and understand a massive world event. From the red poppies around the Tower of London to this week’s commemoration of Passchendaele, we showed how as a country we can bear witness. You can touch a nerve and influence public consciousness”.
— Karen Pollock (@KarenPollock100) August 1, 2017
Sir Peter said he believed that the Holocaust Memorial was needed now more than ever because in his judgment, Holocaust denial would grow in the next 20 years.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, noted the explosion of denial on social media, which she said could be “a very dark place” when discussing the Holocaust.
The shortlisted designs are being exhibited by the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, a cross-party project, funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
— DCLG (@CommunitiesUK) August 1, 2017
Among those shortlisted are some world-famous architects and artists, assisted, in one case, by the input of historian Simon Schama and the chair of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev.
Each design has to grapple with a long wedge-shape and among the imaginative pitches is that of artist Anish Kapoor, who proposes an avenue of cypress trees and a meteorite at the entrance to the memorial.
Another entry suggests “a garden of stones, six million stones placed at and taken from the centre of London”.
The eventual winner will be chosen by an independent jury, which will also consider feedback from visitors to the V&A before making its decision in September. The jury is chaired by Sir Peter and includes Sajid Javid MP, the communities and local government secretary; London mayor Sadiq Khan; Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis; Samantha Cohen, assistant private secretary to the Queen; and Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott MBE.
See some of the designs shortlisted here: