A new state of the art Holocaust learning centre should be built underground in the heart of Westminster, according to proposals published today.
The Holocaust Memorial Foundation recommended that the facility be erected beneath a new national memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens by the Houses of Parliament.
Both the memorial and learning centre – to include testimony from British survivors and liberators – were key proposals of David Cameron’s Holocaust Commission. He revealed the site of the memorial in January.
Continuing where he left off, Theresa May used prime minister’s questions to announce a new international design competition.
The prime minister said: “We need to ensure that we never forget the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons that must be learnt from it.
“It is right that we have agreed this National Memorial, next to Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens. This will ensure that there will be opportunities for young people and others to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and the appalling atrocities that took place.”
Architects and artists will be invited to submit their proposals for the design for the memorial, incorporating the possibly below ground centre. An exhibition of the finalists’ concepts will be held in January, with the winner announced next summer.
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are delighted that plans for the Holocaust memorial are getting underway and we look forward to seeing the proposed designs. It is right that this country will soon have a permanent fitting memorial to this period of history, particularly given its link to Britain.”
Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Olivia Marks-Woldman said: “This will be an exciting opportunity to create a memorial of lasting significance to Britain and to honour the memories of so many. Hundreds of thousands of British people across the UK choose to commemorate the past in their own communities on Holocaust Memorial Day; this physical memorial in such a symbolic site, will provide a focus for national commemoration.”
Foundation chair Sir Peter Bazelgette said the timing of the announcement meant many survivors would be able to witness “the physical embodiment of this nation’s commitment to remembrance. They can be safe in the knowledge that we will continue to stand up against prejudice and hatred.
“The winning design must convey the magnitude of what happened in a meaningful way, inspire reflection and compassion, whilst encouraging future generations to respect and embrace difference.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the initiative will “shape how our children, and our children’s children find out about what happened during the Shoah and understand the importance of joining together to ensure it never happens again.
“The challenge is to create a sacred space for reflection, but also a place for learning in which people can take real meaning from history. I have no doubt that this competition will attract the quality of designs that this important memorial so richly deserves.”