Prime Minister confirms government WILL legislate for Holocaust Memorial in Westminster

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Prime Minister confirms government WILL legislate for Holocaust Memorial in Westminster

Rishi Sunak announces plans to go-ahead with controversial £100 million project ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

MP Robert Jenrick (right), with the late Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott and his grandson Reuben at Victoria Gardens in Westminster in July 2021.
MP Robert Jenrick (right), with the late Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott and his grandson Reuben at Victoria Gardens in Westminster in July 2021.

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the construction of a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in the heart of Westminster will go ahead.

In an announcement made at Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday the Prime Minister gave the green-light to the £100 million project to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small public park next to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster.

He said: “As we prepare to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, I’m sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the extraordinary courage of Britain’s Holocaust survivors, including 94-year-old Arek Hersh who is with us here today.

“This government will legislate to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre next to Parliament so that testimonies of survivors like Arek will be heard at the heart of our democracy by every generation to come.”

In comments released after PMQs, the PM added:”“This important Bill brings us one step closer to delivering a national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre at the heart of our democracy in Westminster, where it rightly belongs.

“The Memorial will honour the memory of those who were so cruelly murdered and preserve the testimonies of brave survivors so that future generations will never forget the horrors of the holocaust.

“As the remaining survivors become older and fewer in number, it is vital that we push ahead with the Memorial which is supported by all major political parties.”

Sunak’s confirmation that the controversial project can proceed came ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday.

Manfred Goldberg BEM, a Holocaust survivor who was held captive in Stutthof concentration camp, Poland, said:  “Several years ago survivors were promised a Holocaust Memorial in close proximity to the Houses of Parliament.

I am a 92 year old survivor who would be so grateful to be alive when this project, uniquely situated next to the Mother of Parliaments, comes to fruition.”

The Board of Deputies also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement saying:”We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement this afternoon. It is fitting that this commitment, which will be welcomed by survivors, the Jewish community, and other victims of the Nazis, comes just before Holocaust Memorial Day.

“Locating the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in the heart of Westminster will serve as a powerful reminder of the impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people and others, and will stand as a testament to the many British soldiers and civilians who liberated Europe, enabling thousands of survivors to rebuild their lives in the UK.”

Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove added:”“We are committed to building the Memorial next to Parliament, a site which reflects its national significance and is close to other important memorials including the Cenotaph.

“We owe it to Holocaust survivors, to the British people and future generations to remember where hatred can lead.”

Ed Balls and Lord Eric Pickles, co-chairs of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation said:  “As the generation of brave Holocaust survivors passes away, we have a duty to create this memorial to make sure that the memory and the truth of the Holocaust is preserved.   ”

The memorial and learning centre was first announced by former prime minister David Cameron in 2016, and has been backed by every PM since, along with Labour and Lib Dem leaders.

But planning permission for the museum and memorial has been rejected a number of times by both Westminster council and through the courts due to a law dating back to 1900 banning construction in Victoria Tower Gardens.

The Holocaust Memorial Bill will update historic legislation, removing a statutory obstacle that has previously prevented the building of a new memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Leading communal figures including Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Board president Marie van der Zyl have been strong supporters of the project.

Designed by a team led by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, the memorial would have included a sculpture of 23 bronze fins leading visitors to an underground learning centre.

The planning application was opposed by a number of groups, including London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust, which led the legal challenge, along with Save Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster City Council, The Thorney Island Society and Baroness Deech.


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