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Holocaust Commission

Volume 591: debated on Tuesday 27 January 2015

Today I am publishing the report of the Holocaust Commission and copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

On this poignant Holocaust memorial day, 70 years on from the liberation of Auschwitz, “Britain’s Promise to Remember” sets out the steps this country will take to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved and its lessons are never forgotten.

The Commission’s work was informed by a call for evidence which received nearly 2,500 responses. This included one of the largest ever gatherings of British Holocaust survivors at Wembley stadium; a youth essay competition with more than 700 entries; and a wide range of consultation events and meetings, including at the White House and United Nations.

The Commission found widespread dissatisfaction with the existing Holocaust memorial in Hyde park, which was felt to be hidden out of sight and offer no context, information or opportunity to learn more. The strength of feeling on this was very clear, particularly from many of Britain’s Holocaust survivors.

The Commission drew on emerging findings from the world’s largest study of young people’s knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust—conducted by UCL’s Institute of Education. This found that the majority of our young people do not know some of the most fundamental facts that explain how and why the Holocaust happened, even after studying it at school. The Commission also reported inadequate support for regional projects, compounded by a lack of long-term funding for Holocaust education. And it identified the urgent need for the recording and appropriate preservation of the testimony of survivors and liberators.

So the Commission made four main recommendations. First, Britain should have a striking and prominent new national memorial in central London, to make a bold statement about the importance our country places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust and to stand as a permanent affirmation of the values of our society.

Second, there should be a world-class learning centre to accompany the national memorial. This would be a must-see destination that would draw on the latest technology to engage and inspire vast numbers of visitors. The new learning centre would also bring together a nationwide network of Holocaust organisations and support head teachers to champion Holocaust education throughout the country.

Third, there should be an endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education for ever. This would cover the running costs of the learning centre and also support Holocaust education around the country, including through local projects and travelling exhibitions.

Fourth, the Commission recommends an urgent programme to complete the task of recording and preserving the first-hand testimony of British Holocaust survivors and liberators. The Commission proposes a new independent body to deliver all these recommendations and wants to see testimony work completed this year, the creation of the national memorial in 2016-17, and the learning centre within the next Parliament.

With the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition I am accepting these recommendations. I am today setting up the United Kingdom Holocaust Memorial Foundation, under the leadership of Sir Peter Bazalgette, to get on with this urgent work. In support of this, and to kick-start a society-wide fundraising effort, the Government will commit £50 million towards the delivery of the new national memorial, learning centre and endowment fund.

I would like to express my thanks to Mick Davis and to all the Commissioners— including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) and the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) who have given this work the cross-party status it so profoundly deserves.

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.

The Holocaust Commission report can be viewed online at: