This national monument will fulfill a vital educational role
IN TODAY’S world, how do we make sure that people of all ages, and from all walks of life, know about the Holocaust? Why does the Holocaust matter in 21st century Britain? What is the right way to reflect on the unimaginable horrors of the past?
At the Holocaust Educational Trust, we have been asking ourselves these questions for the past 30 years.
The way you make sure people know about the Holocaust is simple — you educate. But education itself is complicated.
How do you explain to young people who may have never even met a Jewish person before, that the Holocaust was the worst manifestation of antisemitism in history, but not the first or the last? How do we convey the challenge we face to fight this hatred today?
Education does not only happen in schools. The Holocaust is part of our popular culture. These days we learn about it from TV, films and books. And, thanks to technology, we learn at the tap of a button.
At the Trust we know that it is a profound experience that stays with people the most. When young people meet a survivor, or visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, it stays with them for the rest of their lives.
But we are at a juncture: the Holocaust is moving from living history to just history. The survivors are fewer and frailer. Antisemitism continues to flourish in new and poisonous ways — as people even, perversely, use the Holocaust to attack the world’s only Jewish state. We must find new ways to reach people.
That is why we called for the government to build a national memorial in the UK to act as a lasting legacy to the Holocaust and the survivors, but also as a reminder of where hatred can lead. It has to have a uniquely British focus, not simply to congratulate Britain on its efforts to defeat the Nazis, but also to challenge us to think about where this country failed — and to do so next to Parliament, at the heart of our democracy, could not be more fitting.
We are not merely talking about a slab of concrete but something that makes people think and encourages them to want to learn more. So we called for an accompanying learning centre to enhance the excellent work already being done, to ensure that everyone who visits hasameaningful,longlastingexperience.
The Holocaust Educational Trust prides itself on taking people to places where they can connect with this history, so that they become witnesses and pass on what they have learned.
And be in no doubt — once this memorial is established, we will continue our intensive outreach programme, ensuring that millions of people make a visit.
Education and memorialisation must not cancel one another out. They go hand in hand. You can only remember once you understand. And once you understand, surely you must act.
So let’s make sure that the Holocaust is not only remembered and its legacy protected but also that we act to defeat the poison that is antisemitism today.