Communities secretary ‘confident’ Holocaust Memorial plans will get green light

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Communities secretary ‘confident’ Holocaust Memorial plans will get green light

James Brokenshire spoke after a visit to Jewish Care’s Wohl Court, with local MP Matthew Offord and Lord Levy present

Communities secretary James Brokenshire speaking to a tenant of Jewish Care facility Wohl Court
Communities secretary James Brokenshire speaking to a tenant of Jewish Care facility Wohl Court

The communities secretary has reiterated his commitment to building a National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament, as objections from heritage groups mount up.

James Brokenshire, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, spoke after a visit to Jewish Care’s Wohl Court, with local MP Matthew Offord and Lord Levy present.

The visit was followed by a round table discussion with survivors and volunteers at the Holocaust Survivors’ Centre in Hendon.   

Brokenshire said he is not envisaging a refusal from Westminster Council’s planning committee, despite concerns from Historic England, Royal Parks and an adviser to Unesco’s World Heritage Committee.

“I am not contemplating that refusal,” Brokenshire said, “We are working with council planners to go through some of the technical planning issues to respond to some of the concerns and challenge back where there are these misconceptions about what the site is and what it isn’t.”

He added: “Having it located slap bang next door to the House of Commons underlines that sense of connection, the role of government and how we must not just reflect but also learn and apply the lessons of the Holocaust.

“This is something for our nation. It’s not just for London. It’s not for Westminster.”

Communities secretary James Brokenshire speaking to a survivor at the Holocaust Survivors’ Centre in Hendon

Brokenshire also spoke about his wife’s family and their connection to the Holocaust, telling survivors and volunteers: “There is a personal connection for as to why this really matters, why I am so personally determined

“My father in law was assisted out of Germany at the time of the Second World War by an MI6 agent Frank Foley who helped tens of thousands of Jews escape from German around kristallnacht.“

This comes after London Mayor Sadiq Khan voiced “deep concerns” proposals submitted to Westminster Council to build the centre in Victoria Tower Gardens would be rejected.  

Over 170 Peers and MPs have signed a letter to the Westminster Council planning committee, expressing support for the proposal.

James Brokenshire at Jewish Care (Sam Churchill Photography)

Signatories including Labour’s Emily Thornberry, Yvette Cooper, Barry Gardiner and Lord Dubs and Conservatives Dominic Raab, Nicky Morgan and Robert Halfon.

Last year, eight Jewish peers, some of whom lost family in the Shoah, said in a letter to The Times the proposal “evokes neither the Holocaust nor Jewish history,” in a stinging blow to the memorial.

Eight community grandees, including Lord Grade and Baroness Deech, penned their stern rebuke in the letter, which read: “As peers who lost close family members in the Holocaust or were deeply affected by it, we write in support of the letter objecting to the location and design of the planned Holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens.

“The risk is that its purpose will not be obvious to passers-by and it will not be treated with appropriate respect.”

During the round-table discussion, Brokenshire also announced plans for a time capsule at the centre.

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock, said: “Holocaust survivors offer a unique perspective on the Holocaust and put a human face to history.

“I think a time capsule is a wonderful way to capture their thoughts and reflections, for the benefit of current and future generations, ensuring their legacy lives on.”

“We are grateful to the Secretary of State James Brokenshire for his unstinting support for this important Memorial. We join him in recognising the vital role that it will play in educating about the Holocaust and how we must all stand up to hate. We will always remember.”

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