British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans for a new national Shoah memorial and a cutting-edge learning center that will “transform the way Holocaust education is delivered” as part of a $76 million pledge, Britain’s Jewish News said.
The initiatives are the main recommendations of the prime minister’s Holocaust Commission which has spent the past year examining what more Britain can do to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust. A public call for evidence received more than 2, 500 responses from survivors, community organizations and young people, the News said.
Speaking at the national commemoration marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, 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”, the report said.
Saying he had the full support of Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in accepting the recommendations, he told the 1, 000-strong gathering at Westminster Central Hall: “As Prime Minister I will ensure that we will keep Britain’s Promise to Remember: today, tomorrow and for every generation to come”, the News said.
There is currently a memorial in Hyde Park but many believe it is not well enough known. The Commission – which includes leading figures from the worlds of politics, business and show business – called for a “prominent” memorial in central London “to make a bold statement about the importance Britain places on preserving the memory and stand as a permanent affirmation of the values” of Britain, according to the report.
Sitting alongside the memorial will be a state-of-the-art learning center which could see virtual reality technology used to recreate the streets of 1930s Germany. BAFTA-winning British production company Atlantic Productions has also offered to work with Auschwitz-Birkenau to use their laser scanning technology to create a permanent digital record of the past, the News said.
The facility will also aid teachers and be responsible for developing a physical campus and online hub “bringing together a network of the existing Holocaust organizations and supporting them in driving a renewed national effort to advance Holocaust education”, the report said.
Meanwhile an endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education and an “urgent programme” to preserve survivor testimony have also been recommended – and accepted, the News said,
The importance of education was emphasized by the initial results of the world’s largest study of secondary age people’s knowledge of the Holocaust which showed more than half thought the killing sites were in Germany rather than in Poland, according to the report.
The research of 8, 000 youngsters – conducted by University College London’s Institute of Education – also revealed less than 1/3 knew what “anti-Semitism” meant – compared to more than half who knew what “Islamophobia” meant and 90% who knew what “homophobia” meant, the News said.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who also sat on the Commission, thanked the PM for his “vision and foresight”, saying “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 U.K.”
“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 report said.