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Sun, 14 April 2024

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The Westminster Holocaust Memorial is needed now more than ever

Architects looking at the potential site of the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre beside Parliament (Mark Kerrison / Alamy Stock Photo)

3 min read

In light of the tragic events on and since October 7th – and the subsequent shocking rise in anti-Semitic sentiment – it seems the lessons of the Holocaust are not penetrating modern day events.

The industrial slaughter of six million Jewish children, women and men was the culmination of years of apathy or denial about the risks that Nazi ideology and propaganda posed to the entire free world.

This surely reinforces the case for siting the new Holocaust Memorial centre next to our Parliament, to disseminate the historic message that extremist groups promoting Jew-hatred represent an attack on Western democracy. This important project must explain how the silence, tolerance, or even acquiescence to Jewish persecution in 1930s Europe followed centuries of pogroms and lies. As Nazi extremists accelerated their hold on power, anti-Jewish hatred was not resisted by the majority, ultimately enabling the extremists to take over, and forcing their ideology of hate on the population.

The post-war compact that promised ‘Never Again’ is clearly under threat. Once more, we are witnessing attempts to wipe out millions of Jews, this time in their own country of refuge, which was supposed to save them from another genocide. We hoped the industrialised slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust was a unique evil, but if lessons are not taken on board by western liberal democracies, it could happen again. These are strong reasons for more Holocaust education and why Holocaust Memorial seems more important than ever. 

It has never been more important to remember and learn from the past

Of course, even those who learn the history at school may still harbour antisemitic views – Holocaust deniers have long existed – but this is not a reason to cancel it. The project may even be a target for racists, but that would be the worst reason for not going ahead.

Current developments show it has never been more important to remember and learn from the past. Just condemning the Nazis, laying wreaths, or having a minute’s silence is not enough. 

Even as the world learnt of the carnage, social media was blaming the Jews themselves, pinning the blame on Israel. Rallies calling for an Intifada and demanding ‘from the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free’ mean wiping Israel from the map. Ignoring or excusing such murderous calls would repeat 1930s events.

The Memorial will ensure visitors understand why Jewish people, abandoned during the Holocaust, feel the need for a Jewish state so powerfully and why eradicating Israel – and by implication all Jews living there – is so terrifying. It will teach where antisemitism can lead by helping people connect what they learn about the Holocaust with anti-Semitic slogans chanted at rallies and the dangers of such extremist-led hatred.

There are people who disagree with the project, including some with family members who were murdered by the Nazis, but the vast majority of the Jewish community and Holocaust survivors support it and want it to be built as quickly as possible.

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