Lord Pickles launches Holocaust Testimony portal working group

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Lord Pickles launches Holocaust Testimony portal working group

UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues makes announcement at International Forum on Collecting, Preserving, and Disseminating Holocaust Testimonies in central London

Lord Pickles: Adam Soller Photography/ The AJR
Lord Pickles: Adam Soller Photography/ The AJR

The formation of a group that will explore how to create a UK Holocaust Testimony Portal was announced on the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Lord Pickles, co-chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation made the statement in his opening remarks at the International Forum on Collecting, Preserving, and Disseminating Holocaust Testimonies at Lancaster House in London, an initiative of the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) partnered with Jewish News.

The two-day conference brings together renowned thought leaders, experts and representatives of organisations from across the globe to discuss and analyse Holocaust testimony.

Left to right, German Ambassador Miguel Berger, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon and the Rt. Hon Lord Pickles.
Pic: Adam Soller Photography/ The AJR

The proposed working group will bring together community partners including the Wiener Holocaust Library, the Imperial War Museum, British Library, Fortunoff Archive, AJR Refugee Voices and the University Southern California Shoah Foundation, to explore how to gather together some of the UK’s collections of Holocaust testimonies into a portal.

Michael Newman, CEO, The Association of Jewish Refugees, said: “We come together at a momentous time. An alignment of increasing Holocaust distortion combined with diminishing numbers of refugees and survivors, who can testify through lived experience, makes it more crucial than ever before that eyewitness accounts are collected, preserved and disseminated. This critical resource will enable the dissemination of Holocaust testimony and will harness and future proof world-wide testimony archives.”

Newman told Jewish News the eventual formation of the portal “will enable a greater awareness of Holocaust testimony.”

Lord Ahmad. Pic: Adam Soller Photography/ The AJR

The working group would, he continued, “like to have something substantive to show for during the year of the UK Presidency of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) which starts next March 2024 and lasts for a year.”

In response to the announcement, Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, told Jewish News:

“Testimony is crucial to the future of Holocaust education and remembrance, so a central point to access and research these unique voices is an important step in protecting the truth of the past. At a time when the Holocaust is denied or distorted at the click of a button, we have to ensure that the voices of these survivors who experienced the very worst of humanity, are defended and preserved. For the sake of those 6 million Jewish men women and children who were murdered, and for future generations.”

Also at the opening of the conference were Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon who highlighted that with every year, there are fewer and fewer survivors left.

He said: “We must preserve memories and never be deterred by those who seek to eradicate memories, eradicate people, eradicate communities. The millions murdered in the Holocaust must absolutely never leave us.”

His Excellency Miguel Berger, German Ambassador said: “Today Holocaust denial is again gaining traction, allowing antisemitism to inch towards the mainstream.”

He stressed the importance of working with survivors to create “a world free from prejudice, persecution and violence. We must make sure this personal shift from personal living memory to museums, to digital solutions, to monuments, to research, to books and works of art will not allow the historical truth to slowly fade away into the bookshelves or into routine exam questions.”

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