Two years ago on a family visit to Berlin, I sat in the shadow of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and tried to explain to my children the horror of what happened in the Holocaust.
In the Museum there, is the story of Jack Kagan – one of Britain’s many inspirational Holocaust survivors. Jack’s sister, mother, grandmother and father were all taken from him and murdered by the Nazis. Jack tried to escape, got frostbite and had his toes amputated. But he would not be beaten.
After almost 5 months of tunnelling, he dug his way out of that camp and made it to the forest where he joined the Bielski Brothers in an extraordinary resistance that saved 1,200 lives. After the war, Jack came here and made his home in Britain. And I was delighted when, together with Ben Helfgott, he agreed to join my Holocaust Commission last year.
But Jack is not here today. In October he suffered a debilitating stroke which left him once again in a battle for his life. His daughter Debbie is with us and I know everyone will join me in sending Jack our very best wishes.
Like so many of our incredible Holocaust survivors, Jack had been going into schools to share his testimony reliving the most harrowing moments of humanity, so that we should never forget. For years our Holocaust survivors have seen this as their duty to us. Now we must do our duty to them.
It is time for Britain as a nation to stand together and say “we will remember.” To say: “we will not allow any excuses for anti-Semitism in our country.” We 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.
That is why 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. And 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.
Britain will have a proper National Memorial to the Holocaust in Central London. We will have a world-class Learning Centre that teaches every generation to fight hatred, prejudice and intolerance in all its forms. We will have an endowment fund – so that Holocaust education is secured for ever. We will have an immediate project to finish the urgent task of auditing, recording and future-proofing testimony. So the memory of Holocaust survivors and liberators is faithfully preserved for generations to come. And we will get on and do all this straightaway.
With cross-party support I am today setting up the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation. And I am delighted that Sir Peter Bazalgette has agreed to be its first chair. The government will kick-start a society-wide fundraising effort to deliver the National Memorial, Learning Centre and endowment fund by committing £50 million.
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.