Yesterday, the Chancellor George Osborne unveiled a commemorative medal to mark 70 years since the end of the Holocaust at a special reception at Number 11 Downing Street for the Holocaust Educational Trust, to mark the start of this significant anniversary year.
The medal, an initiative of the Holocaust Educational Trust, has been commissioned by the Chancellor and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. A small number of the medals were presented to Holocaust survivors and supporters at the reception.
In his speech, the Chancellor talked about the central importance of the Holocaust Educational Trust in ensuring continued education and remembrance of the Holocaust. He announced that the government is committed to continuing to fund the trust’s valuable ‘Lessons from Auschwitz’ project in the next parliament. This funding has so far enabled 25,000 young people and teachers to visit Auschwitz and see the horror of the camps for themselves, then come back and share their knowledge with their peers and local communities.
Funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government, the medals were designed and struck by the Royal Mint in consultation with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and the Holocaust Educational Trust. The obverse features the words ‘Liberation 1945’ in a typeface reflecting that used at Belsen, breaking through barbed wire. The reverse commemorates the 11th Armoured Division, the British forces that liberated the camp, and a stylised eternal flame that has come to memorialise the Holocaust victims. This is consistent with the tradition across UK coinage and medals of honouring British achievements and involvement in major world events.
George Osborne, The Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in his speech to Holocaust survivors and supporters:
Here we stand in Downing Street in tribute to fight against Nazism. In tribute to the millions who died. In tribute to the brave survivors. In tribute to the liberators.
And by our very standing in this place – you the survivors, you the liberators, you the people who keep the memory alive, and me and my colleagues, the democratic representatives of a free nation. By our very standing we symbolise that freedom won and tyranny lost. And we restate our determination that freedom will always triumph.
So in this 70th anniversary year of the end of the Holocaust, I have worked with the Royal Mint, and with the Holocaust Educational Trust and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to design a commemorative medal.
On one side is written the words ‘Liberation 1945’, and on the other the 11th Armoured Division, who discovered the camp.
These will be available to the public, but I wanted to make sure everyone here tonight had one first, in recognition of your hard work for this cause.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:
Shining a light on the darkness of the Holocaust is no easy task. Not easy because it involves reliving one of humanity’s most shameful periods. It means retelling stories that are sometimes too shocking for words. But there is only one way to avoid such monstrosities again – through constant vigilance for the first signs of intolerance.
My department is proud of the efforts of the Holocaust Educational Trust in ensuring that the Holocaust is not forgotten and that’s why, 70 years on from the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, we’ve supported the creation of these commemorative medals to recognise the crucial role in remembrance that the trust carries out.
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:
We are delighted that the Chancellor has announced the commissioning of a special commemorative medal to mark 70 years since the end of the Holocaust. This will mean a great deal to the Holocaust survivors who rebuilt their lives in Britain after losing their homes, families and communities at the hands of the Nazis. The commemorative medal is a perfect tribute for this significant anniversary year.