Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and lawyer Robert Rinder have given their passionate support in favour of a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Westminster as an inquiry into its planning enters its final week.
Speaking to the inquiry this morning, rabbi Mirvis spoke of what he calls the “sacred task” that is building the memorial, “not just for the sake of the Jews but for the sake of the whole country and its future”.
“The best form of protection” against extremism, the Chief Rabbi said, “is education”. Rabbi Mirvis added that learning the lessons of what happened in the past is essential for the sake of our “collective” present and future. “It is with this in mind that the intentions of the UKHMF are so noble. They are engaged in a sacred task”.
Mr Brown meanwhile spoke of his “anger and shame” at the Labour party’s failure to root out antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, highlighting the crucial role of the centre in continuing to root out persecution.
“Our national responsibility, our past national failure to act, and the continuing need to fight prejudice around us”, the former PM said, means “we need a national Holocaust memorial and learning centre”.
In Mr Rinder’s evidence to the inquiry, he referenced his BBC documentary tracing the impact the Holocaust had on his and other Jewish families as he argued against those opposing the Memorial and Learning Centre being located near Parliament.
“The proposed Holocaust memorial stands, some have said, in the looming shadow of our Parliament. That is the wrong way to describe it. The design and position of the monument places neither edifice in darkness. They are precisely positioned to bring light to each other.”
Referring to those same critics, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said that while he respected their views, “I differ with them in the strongest, most passionate way.
“We want to be in a place of such prominence because we want people to know about it – we don’t want to tuck the Holocaust away somewhere”.
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown used his evidence to raise his party’s failure to “aggressively and relentlessly root out” antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn. Mr Brown added that he did not believe the building of the Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament should be a matter of controversy. He instead argued that the project would lead the UK to be “strengthened” as a country.
“The national interest is advanced by building the holocaust memorial and leaning centre in Victoria, for it is of enormous significance.
“Everyone should know of the continued need to root out per suction, hatred and intolerance. Something that has come home to me in my sorrow, my anger and my shame at the Labour Party’s failure over the past four years to aggressively and relentlessly root it out in is midst.”
Discussing the proposed location of Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament, rabbi Mirvis echoed the sentiments of the former PM. The Chief Rabbi said: “The Holocaust was born within a democracy. The Holocaust was created by people who were seemingly cultured and sophisticated. What they did, anyone can do. What a democracy produced, any democracy can produce.
“And through staging this initiative and locating it in this particular venue, it will serve as an ongoing reminder to our lawmakers in Parliament, that they are accountable to the people and their prime objective always must be the welfare and wellbeing of every single citizen in our society. This will go a long way indeed to contributing to a stable, secure and peaceful Britain in the future.”
In his evidence, Mr Rinder said: “The memorial will illuminate the halls of parliament where those exercising political power do their work. And, at the monument itself, each and every one of us, regardless of our background, faith or sexuality, will be able to speak to our representatives through bronze and stone.”
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