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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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The time for petty delay is over: we should build the Holocaust Memorial next to Parliament

4 min read

This week the Bill that will finally see the UK catch up with the USA and our European neighbours by agreeing to build a proper Holocaust Memorial, will come back to the House of Commons for a vote.

And yet, despite cross-party support, we can expect to hear all sorts of well-rehearsed lines about why a decade-long wait for the site to be built should be delayed even further.
We will be told how now is not the right time, or that the memorial and learning centre’s location next to Parliament is wrong and would be better suited elsewhere, and we will hear claims that security will be put “at risk” next to one of the most secure buildings in the world.
The problem is, with each day that passes, we get closer to forgetting the reasons for why it needs to be built in the first place.
Just last week, Victoria Tower Gardens – the site where politicians from all sides agree the new memorial should sit - hosted the annual Yom HaShoah event to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

One look at the proximity of the ceremony to the mother of parliaments, with all its symbolism, shows why the location is perfect.
Parliament and the values of our democracy played an important role in ultimately defeating the hate that herded millions of people onto cattle trucks and systematically murdered them in the most brutal way.
But we mustn’t forget that the Holocaust did not begin and end with the death camps. It drew on centuries of Jew hate; it relied on centuries old antisemitic tropes, and it came to pass because many people stood silently by as Nazi hate festered and grew.

That growth started with attacks on Jewish businesses, with demands for boycotts of Jewish products, with Jewish students being excluded from universities and with Jews violently target in the street, in their community spaces, workplaces and even in their homes.
No wonder as we paused this year to remember Yom HaShoah, many of us did so with an added unease and growing sense of foreboding.
Here we are in 2024 with the same Jew hate again filling our streets, online spaces, and our politics across much of the Western world just as it did in the 1930s and 40s.
As then, Jewish students are being targeted on campuses, calls for death to Jews and genocidal chants have become the norm on marches, Jewish patients report mistreatment in hospitals and there are calls to boycott Jewish goods and products.

Jewish venues and places of worship have been attacked, Holocaust memorials have been graffitied or, as in the case here in London, have been covered over to protect them!
Today’s demonstrators use the symbols and language of the Holocaust to intimidate Jewish fellow-citizens and our online spaces have become a cesspit of Nazi and Soviet era antisemitic propaganda. Elsewhere, others demand Jews pick a side; either you are a good Jew or bad Jew.
All of this is a chilling reminder that the lessons of the Holocaust are as relevant today, perhaps more so, as they ever were. We are not living in Nazi Germany, but we are living in a country where parents think twice about whether their children should wear clothing that identifies them as Jewish. A country where many British Jews say they feel less safe than at any point in their lives.

The question we must ask ourselves then is, do we want to have this important beacon of tolerance built, while we still have a country where the overwhelming majority of its people want Britain to be a place of understanding and equality?
Or do we want to delay and hope that the rising hatred and attacks does not lead to the whole project being scrapped all together?
The time for petty delay is over, let’s build it and honour our promise to the survivors - never to forget.

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