London to donate £300K to Auschwitz-Birkenau ahead of HMD

London to donate £300K to Auschwitz-Birkenau ahead of HMD

Mayor signs off on city hall grant ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day in bid to 'preserve hugely important site'

Auschwitz's infamous train tracks and death gate
Auschwitz's infamous train tracks and death gate

London is to donate £300,000 to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to help preserve the remains of the camp and its accompanying exhibits.

Mayor Sadiq Khan signed off on the city hall grant which will help preserve the ruins of the site’s gas chambers and crematoria, barracks, collections and exhibits.

The decision was announced on Wednesday ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, which will mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, now visited by around 300,000 people from the UK each year.

An estimated 1.1 million were killed at the concentration and extermination camp, with the overwhelming majority of victims Jewish.

“As the years pass, and as we have fewer survivors to pass on their stories, it is vital that we work even harder to preserve the site and ensure younger generations learn the lessons from history,” Khan said on Wednesday.

“These lessons are all the more significant as we see antisemitism and hate crime on the rise,” he added. “By joining others from around the world in giving a grant to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, we will be able to preserve this hugely important site and educate people about the Holocaust and the history of many Jewish Londoners for decades to come.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said the decision was a “clear signal of the central place the Holocaust in our collective memory.”

“With the Holocaust still in living memory, there are those who would seek to deny or distort the truth of the past. The best antidote we have is evidence – hearing the testimony of the eyewitnesses or seeing for yourself the very places where the Holocaust took place,” she said.

Echoing Pollock, Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl  said the grant will give a “great boost” to Holocaust education.

“It is vitally important that we all come together to preserve the memory of those who were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust and educate to ensure it never happens again. The grant will give a great boost to this important work,” she said.

With the grant, London joins the city of Paris, as well as Germany, the US and France in donating money to the foundation, which manages the conservation of the camp.

Survivor Lily Ebert, who was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau at 14 in a cattle truck, said the site must be preserved for the world to remember the Shoah.

“People died during that horrific journey [to Auschwitz-Birkenau]. When the cattle trucks finally stopped we arrived at Auschwitz and it was here that I was separated from my family, never to see them again,” she said.

She added: “I promised myself that if by some miracle I survived, I would tell others my story. Today, I tell my story to young people across the country, but I won’t be here to do that forever.

“When I am not here, I want my story and my family’s story to be remembered. When young people visit Auschwitz, when they see the barracks that I lived in, and the gas chamber where a million people were murdered, my family among them, they start to understand. It has to be preserved so the world will remember.”

Khan said he was “deeply honoured” to join the official ceremony of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau later this month.

The mayor will light a candle at the Birkenau memorial during a special service, where he will be joined by 200 survivors, as well as world leaders and dignitaries.

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