The UK Holocaust Memorial must be located at the heart of our national life
It is almost a decade since the publication of Britain’s Promise to Remember, the report of a cross-party commission appointed by the-then prime minister which called for a “striking and prominent” new Holocaust memorial in central London to make a “bold statement” about the importance Britain places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
A Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens will be exactly such a bold statement. Like the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, adjacent to the National Mall in Washington DC, and like the Berlin memorial by the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate, the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial must be located at the heart of our national life.
Victoria Tower Gardens is the right location for a memorial which will ensure that the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust are never forgotten. A memorial in this place will be a reminder to the whole nation – including those of us responsible for making the nation’s law – that we have a lasting responsibility to stand against intolerance.
The proposed Holocaust Memorial Bill, introduced last month, will be a step towards completing the memorial. The bill aims to remove an obstacle arising from the High Court’s interpretation of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900, which created Victoria Tower Gardens as we see it today. The bill will not repeal any part of the 1900 Act: we want to maintain Victoria Tower Gardens as a “garden open to the public”, just as the legislation requires. We simply need to ensure that the 1900 Act does not prevent the establishment of a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.
Our plans include investment in landscaping improvements that will enhance Victoria Tower Gardens and make it more accessible and attractive for all users. A gentle slope will improve views of the Thames; there will be new planting, new seating, a fully accessible boardwalk on the embankment and better drainage of the green space. Contrary to some misleading information which has been circulating, the Memorial and Learning Centre will take only around 7.5 per cent of the area, leaving plenty of space for all current users to enjoy the open space however they choose.
Our plans have strong cross-party support, the endorsement of every living prime minister, and the support of the Chief Rabbi and leading representatives of the Jewish community, along with other faith and community leaders, survivors, refugees, and the wider public.
Every day we delay sadly means that fewer Holocaust survivors will be alive to see the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre. We want to ensure that what they witnessed and experienced is never forgotten.
We need to understand that all over Europe people are trying to rinse their history and trying to pretend the Holocaust was created just by the Nazis. If we want to challenge those lies, we need to look at our own history through a critical lens. Many of us are aware of the Kindertransport which allowed 10,000 children to come to the UK, but what many of us do not know is that it was called the Kindertransport for a reason. We did not allow their parents in. Sadly the majority of those children never saw their parents again as many of them were murdered at Maly Trostenets in Belarus.
We are committed to creating a Holocaust memorial that we can all be proud of, and Victoria Tower Gardens is the right location for it. It will stand alongside the existing memorial honouring the MPs who sought to abolish slavery, the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, and Auguste Rodin’s Burghers of Calais which so powerfully evokes the idea of standing against cruelty.
Placing the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to the Houses of Parliament will serve as a warning to us all as to where hatred can lead.
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