UK memorial designs go on display
HOLOCAUST DENIAL could rise in the next two decades, a leading campaigner has warned.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, said: “I have the impression that Holocaust denial may well grow in the next 20 years rather than diminish.”
Sir Peter issued the warning on Tuesday, as designs for the new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre went on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The danger posed by Holocaust deniers “underlines the importance of this and other exercises to do with learning the lessons of the Holocaust,” he argued.
But he added that the key to fighting back lay in young people who had met survivors and heard their stories first-hand. “They will be witnesses to the veracity of the interviews in our survivor testimonies that alone underline the importance of what we are doing,” Sir Peter said.
Ten designs for the memorial, which will stand next to the Houses of Parliament in Victoria Tower Gardens in central London, have been shortlisted.
The project, launched by Prime Minister Theresa May last September, attracted interest from 92 teams from 26 countries.
The shortlisted contenders come from Britain, Europe, the United States and Canada and include contributions from the sculptor Anish Kapoor, Turner Prize-winning artist Rachel Whiteread and acclaimed British architect Norman Foster.
Sir Peter said: “The stories of Holocaust survivors are incredibly powerful. They witnessed a breakdown in society, in its ethics and in our duties to one another.
“We can and must learn from their experiences to help us fight hatred in society today.
“These personal stories will have a permanent home in the new Learning Centre. I hope that as many people as possible can help us design it by giving their feedback.”
Peter Lantos, who was an inmate in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a young boy and whose testimony has been recorded as part of the national
(right) memorial project, was one of three survivors who attended the opening of the exhibition.
Mr Lantos told the JC: “Throughout my life I have seen the best and worst of human nature. It would be a comfort to think that we have learned everything from the past but it would be naïve.
“Sadly, the need to challenge hatred is constant. I hope that the new centre helps us to do that.”
Joan Salter was separated from her family during the Second World War and not reunited with them until 1947 when she discovered her parents had managed to survive the war and were living in the UK.
She said: “We live in dangerous times and tragically, a reminder of how fragile civilisation is, is more crucial now than ever. This is why the new memorial and learning centre are essential.”
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, welcomed the survivors, including Mala Tribich.
Ms Tribich, born in Poland in 1930, is the sister of Olympic weight-lifter Ben Helfgott — the only members of their immediate family to survive the Holocaust. She said she found it really difficult to decide which of the designs was most appropriate. “There is something in each one that I think is relevant. I think I am spoilt for choice.”
But Joan Salter, who at the age of three was rescued by the United States Committee for the Care of European Children and went to America in 1943, said she favoured the simpler versions among the shortlist.
“The Holocaust is dramatic enough. I think all the designs are great but I don’t need a huge memorial. For me, the education centre is the most important thing and I believe less is more when it comes to the design.
“I think it is important that the design fits in with the surroundings, too. One of the most powerful memorials I have ever seen was the sea of red poppies at the Tower of London [to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War]. You saw each one and thought it was an individual.”
Ms Salter said she was concerned that some of the more complicated designs would encourage people to trivialise them as photo opportunities.
“You’ve seen what happens at the Berlin memorial — people just go to take selfies and that is not the point.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the new memorial would stand for generations as a symbol of Britain’s commitment to remembering the Holocaust.
She said: “In a fragile world, it is more important than ever that we educate the next generation about the dangers of hatred .
“The learning centre will play a vital role in ensuring this message reaches far and wide.”
The designs will be displayed at the V&A until August 22.
Three of the designs on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Survivors Joan Salter, Peter Lantos and Mala Tribich at the V&A