In living memory, the unimaginable happened. Jewish people in their millions were identified and segregated. They were stripped of their businesses, their homes, even their citizenship.
They were rounded up, deported, and forced into ghettos and camps. And then, in purpose-built extermination camps, in ravines, and in forests across Europe, six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered.
As Jews, we grew up hearing the stories of the Holocaust. We knew people who had tattoos on their arms. We knew that the Holocaust was something that happened to people like us, our family.
But today, that knowledge goes beyond our community. In schools the length and breadth of the country, British students from all faiths and none learn about the Holocaust.
They hear the testimony of Holocaust survivors, they visit the sites where it happened, they learn the story of the Kindertransport, and they explore the allied forces’ decision not to bomb the train tracks leading to Auschwitz. The Holocaust is British history and has become part of this country’s narrative.
Today, we can have faith that this willingness to learn, understand and remember will continue and grow. The UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will be built at the very heart of our democracy, it will forever stand as a warning from history and as a reminder of what happened when hatred and antisemitism went unchecked.
When we can no longer hear the testimonies of the eyewitnesses, when we can no longer be awestruck by their unimaginable stories of survival, when we can no longer almost touch history, this memorial will stand to remind generations to come of this stain on world history, this seminal moment in British history, and this central moment in Jewish history.
Britain’s Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will stand in the shadow of Parliament. A Parliament that made decisions that shaped the Second World War. It will forever have a central place in our city – a place to pause, reflect, and challenge, a place where we can come together to reflect upon our shared humanity.
A place where the very human stories of the Holocaust will be told. A place where the Jewish community can come together to mourn.
A place where people from around the world will learn about this abominable part of human history. A place that will tell our nation’s story and stand forever as a warning of what can happen when liberal democracy fails.
Today, as a nation, we say that we will remember.
Karen Pollock MBE is Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
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