PRINCE CHARLES and a Holocaust survivor light a candle at Central Hall Westminster, as his wife, Camilla, looks on..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON – Britain will establish a new national memorial and a digital age educational center to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, British Premier David Cameron announced on Tuesday at the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony.
Westminster’s Central Hall was filled with more than 200 survivors, leading politicians and several religious leaders to hear Cameron announce the findings of the Holocaust Commission which he established to consider the best way to ensure the events of the Shoah will be passed onto future generations as the numbers of survivors dwindle.
The event, shown on prime-time BBC television Tuesday night, was also addressed by Prince Charles who was accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.
The commission, led by the Jewish Leadership Council’s Chairman Mick Davis, spent a year taking evidence from among others, Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish community. It included Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, representatives of the major political parties and several academics and others involved in Holocaust-related activities.
Its principal recommendations, all immediately accepted by Cameron, included building “a striking and prominent new national memorial” in central London “to make a bold statement” about the importance Britain places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust, and to become a “permanent reaffirmation” of British values.
It will replace an inscribed rock placed two decades ago at the “Dell” in a hard to locate site in the southern part of London’s Hyde Park. The site was chosen by the then government at the request of Greville Janner, the Labor MP who fought to bring the Holocaust to the attention of the UK.
While Janner was grateful that then-environment secretary Michael Heseltine agreed to provide a place for a memorial, he complained it was not in a prominent spot for all to see, only to be told that it could not be placed in more public location as it would most probably be defaced.
The commission also recommended creating a “world class learning center” to be sited alongside the memorial. The commission suggested it should be a “must see destination” using the latest digital technology to “engage and inspire” visitors.
It called for the center to take responsibility for developing a “physical campus and online hub” to coordinate all existing UK-based Holocaust organizations. An endowment fund is to be established to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education in Britain. Cameron announced that the government is to donate £50 million to start the fund.
Another recommendation concerned what the commission views as the urgent work of recording and preserving the testimony of Holocaust survivors and their liberators.
Cameron told guests that it was time for Britons to stand together as a country and say “we will remember and to say: we will not allow any excuses for anti-Semitism in our country.”
He added that Britain would not let any form of prejudice destroy the multi-faith, multi-ethnic democracy we are so proud to call our home. “We will teach every generation the British values of respect and tolerance that we hold dear. And we will ensure that they can learn from the stories of our Holocaust survivors long after we are all gone.”
Announcing the formation of Holocaust Memorial Foundation, Cameron – who had been joined by Deputy Premier Nick Clegg and opposition leader Ed Miliband at the ceremony, said, “Today we stand together – whatever our faith, whatever our creed, whatever our politics.
We stand in remembrance of those who were murdered in the darkest hour of human history. We stand in admiration of what our Holocaust survivors have given to our country. And we stand united in our resolve to fight prejudice and discrimination in all its forms. We will keep Britain’s promise to remember. Today, tomorrow and for every generation to come.”
The hourlong ceremony, masterminded by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman, included a candle lighting ceremony marking not only the Holocaust but recent genocides including those in Bosnia and Darfur.
Charles and Camilla took the stage to pass lighted tapers to those chosen to light six specially designed candles. A number of top British actors and actresses gave readings reflecting the tragedies of the Holocaust and other genocides.
Charles said that the Holocaust was without parallel – a human tragedy and an act of evil unique in history. “It is for these reasons that we must always remember it and honor its Jewish victims and the Nazis other victims.”