Supporters of the proposed Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Palace of Westminster have said it will stand as a reminder to politicians that their decisions have long-term consequences.
The memorial foundation’s new mission statement, released as MPs pondered how to vote over Brexit in the UKs biggest peacetime decisions, was accompanied by final design images, as backers said the park location was the right one.
In October, eight Jewish peers who lost family in the Shoah called for the £100 million project to be dropped because the Imperial War Museum nearby is preparing to unveil its new Holocaust Galleries. They said the money – comprising £50 million from the Government and £50 million in donations – should instead go on education.
Residents and MPs have also raised concerns about the plans for 23 giant bronze fins protruding from one of London’s Royal Parks, but the foundation’s co-chairs – former Labour minister Ed Balls and former Tory minister Lord Pickles – doubled down on the location choice.
“There is no better place than Victoria Tower Gardens, just metres from our own Parliament, to remind ourselves of the value of democracy and the need to keep the lessons of history at the heart of our institutions and the decisions our elected politicians make every day,” said Balls on Tuesday.
Pickles said it the foundation would “work with” the Imperial War Museum and suggested that while the UK could be proud of such efforts as the Kindertransport, the proposed new learning centre would confront inaction in other areas.
“It is important to ensure that our examination of the past is honest and unblinking. We will properly explore aspects of the Holocaust that are less flattering to the UK.”
Their comments came as a second design exhibition opened, detailing changes made after the first consultation. The children’s play area is to be kept, a café kiosk is to open, and entry for the first two year will be by pre-booked ticket, to alleviate concerns about traffic flow.
The foundation also described “plans to improve the setting of the Buxton Memorial to the abolition of slavery while maintaining views of this important memorial, in addition to the landscape design that will link together the garden’s existing memorials commemorating the efforts and effects of social injustice”.
Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman said she was “pleased to see a clear mission to ‘mourn, remember and act,’ adding: “The Memorial will both honour the millions murdered by the Nazis and encourage visitors to consider complex lessons from this unparalleled period of history in a world where hatred, persecution and genocide persist.”