William Hague 311.
(photo credit: AP)
LONDON – The British Foreign Office appointed its first-ever envoy for post-Holocaust studies on Wednesday.
Former ambassador to Israel Sir Andrew Burns was appointed to the new position by Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Announcing the decision, Hague said: “The UK is determined to preserve the memory of the Holocaust for future generations. Sir Andrew’s appointment will ensure that we continue to support those working to right past wrongs and remain at the forefront of international discussions, to make sure that the lessons of this terrible period in our history are never forgotten.
“As a former UK ambassador to Israel and chairman of the Anglo-Israel Association, Sir Andrew’s wealth of experience means he is ideally placed to tackle the challenges this post presents,” the foreign secretary added.
Burns, who is currently chairman of the executive committee of the Anglo-Israel Association, will be responsible for leading the government’s efforts on a range of post-Holocaust work and for ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of discussions on the work of the Berlin-based Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and of the International Tracing Service, based in a small town near Hesse.
Burns’s remit will also include pushing for implementation of the
Terezin Declaration on Holocaust Era Assets, approved last year by 46
countries at the Holocaust Era Assets conference in Prague, and helping
resolve outstanding issues related to property and art restitution.
“I am deeply honored by the confidence the government places in me to
develop and drive forward policy on such a wide range of post-Holocaust
issues,” Burns said.
“The UK already plays a leading and active role in promoting Holocaust
education, remembrance and research, in tackling and resolving
outstanding issues and claims, and in raising public awareness of the
continuing relevance of the lessons and legacy of that terrible moment
in European history.
“I shall make it an early priority to talk to a broad range of experts
and others with an interest in or knowledge of post-Holocaust subjects,
in Whitehall and Parliament and in the wider community, in order to
understand as well as I can the scope and substance of the issues
involved and develop a properly coordinated and strategic way forward
in international discussions.”
Anne Webber, co-chair of Commission for Looted Art in Europe, and Michael Newman, director of the Association of Jewish Refugees, said: “We have worked closely with the government to achieve this historic post and very much look forward to working with Sir Andrew at this crucial time with several post-Holocaust issues requiring urgent attention and decisive leadership.”
Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the trust “warmly welcomes” his appointment.
“The Holocaust Educational Trust warmly welcomes the appointment of Sir Andrew Burns as Britain’s special envoy on the Holocaust,” Lord Janner said. “We can be proud that Britain has consistently led the way in Holocaust education, commemoration and restitution – and are delighted that Sir Andrew will act as a global ambassador for that work.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews also welcomed the appointment and commitment of the government.
“We welcome and applaud the commitment of the government to the issues that will form Sir Andrew’s remit,” said the Board’s chief executive Jon Benjamin. “This builds upon the solid work done by the Foreign Office before the election but makes a clear statement of the intentions of the new team. We look forward to working with them on post-Holocaust issues, as we do on the very real issues confronting Israel and Jews in the Diaspora today.”