A public exhibition on the latest designs for the UK’s new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre opened this week.
The event was attended by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, Holocaust Memorial Foundation co-chairs Ed Balls and Lord Pickles and Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry.
Brokenshire said: “There can be no more powerful symbol of our commitment to remembering the men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust, and other victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma, gay people and the disabled than by placing the memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens in the shadow of our Parliament.
“The Holocaust has had a monumental impact on British democracy, our history and our values. It is a warning to us and a stark reminder of where hatred can lead.”
Dismissing some claims that the location was inappropriate, he noted the gardens were where all monuments that symbolise our values were built, “and only here could the memorial gain the prominence it requires… and, as a genuinely national memorial, it must be placed where millions will see it”.
Brokenshire noted the Community Security Trust had reported 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK, “the highest annual total on record”, adding that the work of the foundation “reminds us that anti-Semitism must be challenged on all occasions”.
The memorial and learning centre “will shine a clear light on Britain’s relationship to the Holocaust, what we did to challenge the Nazis and where we failed or fell short”.
He added: “The Holocaust Memorial will stand as a stark reminder that a central role of democracy is to encourage tolerance for ethnic, religious and racial differences and fostering religious freedom, individual rights and civil responsibility.”
Representing the Labour Party, Thornberry praised the “cross-party efforts” to ensure the “memorial is built in the heart of Westminster”.
“The Holocaust teaches us and the millions who will visit the memorial that whatever the hatred, it starts with a concept of ‘them and us’ and depends on demonisation to survive. There is no ‘other’, there is only ‘us’”, she said.
She added the “memorial must stand next to the seat of power, in the shadow of Parliament. It must be seen every day by all of us”.
Balls said: “What better way to show we will not tolerate hatred than our new Holocaust Memorial, right next to our Parliament. There is no location more fitting to honour the victims of one of humanity’s greatest tragedies than side-by-side with one of humanity’s oldest democracies.
“There is no better gift we can pass to future generations than the knowledge of where hatred, unchecked, can lead.”
Lord Pickles added: “By building a memorial and learning centre next to our Parliament, we are fulfilling a commitment made to a past generation and committing future generations hold our democracy to account.
“It reminds Parliament that it has the power to oppress, as well the power to protect.
“The learning centre is a timely reminder, to all communities, of the cost of indifference to intolerance. All who care about our country have a vested interest in standing up to prejudice and hatred.”
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Karen Pollock said building the exhibition was an “important step in the journey to set up a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in the UK”.
She added: “It will reassure survivors that after they have gone, there will be somewhere where people can learn about them and their experiences.”
Laura Marks, of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “As feelings are very raw at the moment,” she added, “perhaps this memorial and learning centre will help to start the healing and reconciliation process.”
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