Objections to the new Holocaust Memorial at Victoria Tower Gardens made this week by eight peers of the realm were strange for several reasons, not least because they came from Jews who lost families in the Shoah, who would – you’d have thought – be most keen on it.
Their alternative suggestion – to use the money for Holocaust education instead – was well-meaning, but not a little late, and not an either/or as they presented.
The community, along with memorial co-chairs Lord Pickles and Ed Balls, have been left a little perplexed by all this, believing that it was an argument held and won some years ago. So, why intervene now?
In part the peers’ objection is to the design, arguing in essence that it doesn’t scream ‘Holocaust’ at you. But look at the profound effect Berlin’s memorial has had on international visitors. That, from a series of granite blocks.
The peers also raise the point that the Imperial War Museum, only a mile away, has its own excellent Holocaust Galleries, but fail to recognise that this serves a different audience.
In its location search, the government’s aim was “to find the most meaningful location which could best reflect the impact of the Holocaust”. It said Victoria Tower Gardens “best suited joint aims, being the most significant location and offering the greatest value”.
Several studies, including environmental and flood risk, have been undertaken, and every care is being made to minimise the impact. Planners have already moved the site north for fear of disturbing tree roots. The arguments, in short, seem like nimbyism.
True, no one wants to see London’s parks uprooted, but backers hope the memorial and learning centre will take root deep in the public conscience, reminding us all what happens when hate takes hold.
If that isn’t worth a prime location, we don’t know what is.