British Prime Minister David Cameron has unveiled plans for a national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. As survivors of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp marked the 70th anniversary of its liberation with a plea for an end to genocide across the globe, the PM addressed a commemorative event in London, saying we must "not allow any excuses for anti-Semitism".
Tight security surrounded the arrival of the Prince of Wales, political leaders, prominent Jews and a cast of stars of stage and screen, less than three weeks after four were killed in a terror attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris. Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Mark Rowley has warned there is a ''heightened concern'' about the risk to the Jewish population in the UK since French slaughter at the hands of an accomplice of the Charlie Hebdo killers.
"It is time for Britain as a nation to stand together and say 'We will remember'," Cameron told the sombre gathering at Methodist Central Hall to mark the annual Holocaust Memorial Day. To say 'We will not allow any excuses for anti-semitism in our country'. We will 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 have all gone."
The British Government is to put £50 million towards the construction of the "striking and prominent" monument in central London, as well as the establishment alongside it of a "world class" education and learning centre. They were among recommendations of a commission set up by the PM to ensure lessons continue to be learnt even after all eye-witnesses have died and which found "worrying gaps" in young people's understanding of the Holocaust. Fewer than one-third of respondents to a survey knew what "anti-semitism" means.
Arts Council England chair Sir Peter Bazalgette will head a new United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation, Cameron said - with some of the money used as an endowment to ensure education work can continue.
"Today we stand together - whatever our faith, whatever our creed, whatever our politics," Cameron said after he, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg all met with Holocaust survivors. "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."
Charles, who with the Duchess of Cornwall also mingled with dozens of survivors, described the Holocaust as not just a "Jewish tragedy" but a "warning and a lesson to all of us, of all faiths and in all times". He said the memory of the "Nazis' diabolical enterprise" was relevant to today's conflicts and should help people reflect on how to respond to events in the Middle East.
Actors Sir John Hurt, Michael Palin, Keeley Hawes, Sarah Lancashire and Christopher Eccleston were among those taking to the stage to give voice to the accounts of victims and survivors and to read poems.
A harrowing video also served to remind that 2015 also marks 20 years since more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were slaughtered at Srebrenica, the worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War.
Six candles designed by sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor were lit by five Holocaust survivors and a survivor from the Bosnian war, who were handed tapers to do so by Charles and Camilla.
Possible sites for the memorial and learning centre include a new wing of the Imperial War Museum, at Potters Field near London Bridge, or at the Millbank complex alongside the Tate Britain museum, the report said.
The Commission said that it should represent "at its heart" the experience of the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but should also honour the memory of other victims, including members of the Roma community, Jehovah's Witnesses, political dissidents, homosexuals and people with mental and physical disabilities.
Backing the national memorial plans, Labour leader Ed Miliband - whose family lost several members in the Holocaust - said: "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."
Clegg spoke out in support of the inclusion of gay victims of the Holocaust. "The symbol of the pink triangle, once intended as a badge of shame, today stands as an international symbol of freedom and pride. From the dark shadow of history rises a neon emblem of diversity and hope," he said. "Any memorial remembering the Holocaust should recognise the persecution of non-Jewish victims whilst maintaining the centrality of the six million murdered Jews."
Chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust Karen Pollock said: "As we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and liberation of the concentration camps, we are at a crucial juncture. The announcement of a new national Holocaust memorial with a world class learning centre with a renewed focus on education will place the UK among the world's leaders in ensuring that future generations always remember this tragic episode in our shared history."
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY:
- The 5 Million Non-Jewish Victims Of The Holocaust
- 'Preposterous' To Compare Current Anti-Jewish Hate With 1930s
- Tatchell On The Nazi Bid to Exterminate Gay People
- I Learnt About the Holocaust in Fragments
- We Must Fight Against Intolerance
- Why We Need to Teach Young People About Holocaust
- The Holocaust Was A Genocide
- Also Remember The Black Holocaust