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Hundreds of Holocaust survivors gather for PM’s commission

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

One of the largest ever gatherings of survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution in the UK is to take place in London.

The event, being held today (5 May 2014), forms part of the work of the Holocaust Commission set up by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Hundreds of survivors will attend a special consultation event, hosted by commission member Natasha Kaplinsky, to discuss how the Holocaust should be remembered in Britain. Guests, including people who survived concentration camps, individuals who escaped to Britain on the kindertransport and those who were hidden from the Nazis as children, will give their views on Holocaust education, museums and monuments. The evidence gathered will inform recommendations to be made to the Prime Minister at the end of the year.

The national, cross-party Holocaust Commission was launched by the Prime Minister in January. It is tasked with investigating what more needs to be done to ensure Britain has a fitting memorial to the Holocaust and the right educational resources for future generations. Prime Minister David Cameron said:

I am awestruck by the work that so many survivors do teaching our young people about the Holocaust. We must ensure that the memory and the lessons of the Holocaust are never forgotten.

Today’s event is important because it gives the commission the chance to hear from survivors first-hand about how to best commemorate the Holocaust and to educate future generations of every faith and none. With their help we can ensure that the memory and the lessons of the Holocaust live on for generations to come.

The event comes on the day Polish-born British Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott will be announced as the latest recipient of a Points of Light volunteering award. Aged 9 to 15, Ben survived ghettoes, labour camps and the concentration camps at Buchenwald, Schlieben and Theresienstadt. He will receive the award in recognition of his extensive volunteering including chairing the ‘45 Aid Society for Holocaust Survivors for over 50 years and working for reconciliation between Poles and Jews. Ben is the 11th person to be given one of the new Points of Light awards which have been developed in partnership with the hugely successful Points of Light programme in the USA.

Holocaust Survivor Ben Helfgott said:

I am delighted to accept this Points of Light award. By sharing our stories and bringing people together, survivors can help to fight prejudice and intolerance wherever they occur and create the conditions for harmony and mutual respect.

The Holocaust Commission

The Holocaust Commission: keeping the memory alive

The Holocaust Commission includes representation from across society including actress Helena Bonham Carter, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, cross-party representation from Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Ministry of Justice Minister Simon Hughes, educator Dame Helen Hyde, the Arts Council’s Sir Peter Bazalgette and, from the world of business, Leo Noé and Ruby McGregor-Smith as well as broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky.

The nationwide public call for evidence is running until the end of May, with people across the country being invited to submit their views before the commission reports its findings to the Prime Minister by the end of the year. A competition to find a young person under the age of 21 to join the commission was launched in February.

Volunteers from the Holocaust Educational Trust and Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors Centre are supporting today’s event.

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

The Holocaust Educational Trust is proud to be part of this unique gathering of survivors and refugees - it is crucial that their voices are heard. The fact that so many of our young ambassadors have given up their time to be here today is a testament to the powerful relevance that the Holocaust continues to have.