Press release

Prime Minister pledges prominent Holocaust Memorial for Britain

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

The recommendations of the Prime Minister’s cross-party Holocaust Commission have been accepted.

Britain will have a new National Memorial and world-class Learning Centre using the latest digital technology to commemorate and educate about the Holocaust Prime Minister David Cameron has announced at an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

The National Memorial and Learning Centre are 2 of the recommendations made today by the cross-party Holocaust Commission set up by the Prime Minister which has spent the last year investigating how the country should ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved and that the lessons it teaches are never forgotten.

The Commission, which has been chaired by Mick Davis and included the Chief Rabbi, Helena Bonham Carter, Natasha Kaplinsky, Sir Peter Bazalgette and cross-party representation from Rt Hon Ed Balls, Rt Hon Simon Hughes and Rt Hon Michael Gove, has today recommended:

  • a striking and prominent new National Memorial should be built in central London to make a bold statement about the importance Britain places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust and stand as a permanent affirmation of the values of British society
  • a world-class Learning Centre should sit alongside the memorial. This should be a must-see destination using the latest technology to engage and inspire vast numbers of visitors. It would also be responsible for developing a physical campus and online hub bringing together a network of the existing Holocaust organisations across the UK and supporting them in driving a renewed national effort to advance Holocaust education across the country
  • an endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education – including the new Learning Centre and projects across the country
  • an urgent programme to record and preserve the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and liberators

All 3 parties have agreed that government will commit £50 million to the creation of the National Memorial, Learning Centre and endowment fund.

Prime Minister David Cameron 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.

Today – with the full support of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition – I am accepting the recommendations of the Holocaust Commission. Britain will have a National Memorial, a world-class Learning Centre and an endowment fund to secure Holocaust education forever.

I thank Mick Davis and all the Commissioners – including Ed Balls, Michael Gove and Simon Hughes – who have given this work the cross-party status it so profoundly deserves. As Prime Minister I will ensure that we will keep Britain’s promise to remember: today, tomorrow and for every generation to come.

Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband said:

In the 1940s both my parents fled the Nazis and several of my relatives – including my grandfather – were killed in the Holocaust. My family’s story is just one of millions of stories of men, women and children who were tragically murdered in the Holocaust because they were Jewish or a member of other persecuted groups.

I’m pleased to support the Holocaust Commission’s recommendations because they will help ensure that the memories of those killed in the Holocaust live on, both through a powerful memorial as well as long-term education and research programmes.

At a time of rising anti-Semitic attacks in Britain and across Europe, it is imperative that we remember what religious prejudice can lead to. I know that the Holocaust Commission recommendations will be instrumental in educating our future generations and in recording and preserving the stories of our Holocaust survivors and those who fought to liberate them.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

I would like to thank the Holocaust Commission for their excellent report. It is a great privilege to implement their recommendations and to commit £50 million to build a new national Holocaust memorial and Learning Centre.

Today, I was honoured to meet and speak with holocaust survivors who have dedicated themselves to bearing witness to the atrocities they and others suffered at the hands of the Nazis. On this the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we honour their courage and commitment.

They are a beacon of hope amidst so much darkness. But, sadly there will be a time when there are no eyewitnesses left. It is therefore even more important that we build the best possible facilities to educate future generations about the Holocaust and continue to tell their stories long after they are gone.

We also remember the millions who lost their lives. Learning about the Holocaust is not just a history lesson. It is one of the greatest antidotes we have to anti-Semitism and extremism of all kinds. We simply cannot remember and re-remember these horrors enough. Silence and forgetfulness allows prejudice and hatred to rise again, as we can see from the violence still perpetrated today.

The fact that thousands of people will visit this new National Memorial is our greatest guarantee that they will not be repeated in the future.

There were nearly 2,500 responses to a national call for evidence by the Commission which included one of Britain’s largest ever gatherings of Holocaust survivors at Wembley Stadium in May. As well as revealing widespread dissatisfaction with the current memorial in Hyde Park, the consultation found that, although there are pockets of excellence in Holocaust education, there are worrying gaps in young people’s knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust.

The Commission was given privileged access to emerging results from the world’s largest study of young people’s knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust conducted by University College London’s world-leading Institute of Education. Their study of 8,000 young people in England, across all years of secondary school education, found:

  • the majority of those surveyed did not know some of the most fundamental facts that explain why and how the Holocaust happened, even after having studied the Holocaust at school
  • when asked who was responsible for the Holocaust, the vast majority think only of Hitler and the Nazis – more than 3 quarters didn’t recognise that hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens were also complicit in the Holocaust
  • more than half thought the killing sites were in Germany rather than in Poland
  • less than a third knew what ‘anti-Semitism’ meant – compared to more than half who knew what ‘Islamophobia’ meant and 90% who knew what ‘homophobia’ meant

The new Learning Centre and its partners will be tasked with transforming the way Holocaust education is delivered. The latest technology will be used to develop innovative ways to educate and will be made available around the UK. The Commission has been working to develop some initial concepts with pro bono support from Oscar-winning British company Framestore. These include, for example, using virtual reality technology to recreate the streets of 1930s Germany, and smart tickets which would allow visitors to interact with digital installations. BAFTA-winning British production company Atlantic Productions has also offered to work with Holocaust sites such as Auschwitz-Birkenau to use their world-leading laser scanning technology and software to create a permanent digital record of the past and provide valuable information for its future preservation. This digital imagery would be a powerful tool in sharing stories and educating children and families worldwide.

The Learning Centre will also support head teachers and others to champion Holocaust education by working with Teaching Schools and other partners to promote the benefits of Holocaust education, increasing the accessibility and affordability of teacher training, assisting professional bodies to incorporate lessons from the Holocaust into their training and further advancing the UK’s position as a recognised international centre of Holocaust excellence in education, research and study, including through the creation of a professorial chair.

Commission Chair Mick Davis said:

The Prime Minister charged the Commission with setting out recommendations which would ensure that in 50 years’ time, the memory and lessons of the Holocaust are as strong and as vibrant as today.

I have no doubt that, if properly implemented, the recommendations in this report will create a compelling memorial and greatly enhance this country’s existing educational effort for the future.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said:

I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his vision and foresight in establishing the Holocaust Commission. The work of the Commission transcends politics and I want to thank Ed Balls, Simon Hughes and Michael Gove for their role as fellow Commissioners in ensuring unreserved cross party support for this important initiative.

Building on the great work already being done, the recommendations of the Commission will have a profound impact on the future of Holocaust education and its centrality in the UK. A fitting memorial and a state of the art educational centre will ensure that Holocaust commemoration and education reach the widest possible audience. It has never been more important than it is today for humanity to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. Only through learning about the darkest period in human history can we ensure it will not be repeated.

The Commission has forged strong links with leading international institutions, including signing a joint letter of intent to enable greater co-operation between British Holocaust organisations and Yad Vashem in Israel; and a partnership with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. It proposes that an international summit should be held in London to mark the opening of the Learning Centre within the next Parliament.

During his speech to Holocaust survivors at the national UK commemorations for Holocaust Memorial Day in London, the Prime Minister announced the creation of the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation – a new independent body led by Arts Council Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette that is tasked with taking the recommendations forward including the creation of the National Memorial and Learning Centre.

Sir Peter Bazalgette said:

Under the leadership of Mick Davis the Holocaust Commission has produced a set of recommendations designed to ensure Britain will always remember humanity’s darkest hour.

It is vital that the new United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation maintains the urgent momentum of this work. The prize is empathetic citizens with tolerance for the beliefs and cultures of others. But eternal vigilance is needed to instil this in every generation.

Notes to editors

  1. Read the full report of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission: Britain’s Promise to Remember.
  2. The Holocaust Commission was initially announced by the Prime Minister at the Holocaust Education Trust annual dinner.
  3. The Commission was launched on Holocaust Memorial Day 2014 at a reception for survivors in Downing Street. Read the speech.
  4. The Holocaust Commission ran a call for evidence from January to May 2014. This included a national competition to find a youth Commissioner which received more than 700 entries. Charlotte Cohen was selected to join the Commission by Professor Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor.
  5. A list of members of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission and expert groups is available in the report.