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National Memorial and Learning Centre to be built in Central London

The former Nazi-German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz I. Photo: PA

A National Memorial and Learning Centre will uses digital technology to commemorate and educate about the Holocaust.

ITV News Social Affairs Editor Penny Marshall reports:

Both are two of the recommendations made the cross-party Holocaust Commission looking at how the country should ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is preserved and that the lessons it teaches are never forgotten.

Flowers lay on a stele at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany Credit: PA

The Commission, which has been chaired by Mick Davis and included the Chief Rabbi, Helena Bonham Carter, Natasha Kaplinsky, Sir Peter Bazalgette and cross-party representation from Rt Hon Ed Balls, Rt Hon Simon Hughes and Rt Hon Michael Gove, has today recommended:

  • A new National Memorial should be built in central London to make a bold statement about the importance Britain places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust
  • A Learning Centre alongside the memorial, using the latest technology for developing a physical campus and online hub bringing together a network of the existing Holocaust organisations across the UK
  • An endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education – including the new Learning Centre and projects across the country.
  • An urgent programme to record and preserve the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and liberators.
Survivers of the Buchenwald concentration camp with their loved ones, government officials, and citizens. Credit: PA

All three parties have agreed that Government will commit £50 million to the creation of the National Memorial, Learning Centre and Endowment Fund.

Today we stand together - whatever our faith, whatever our creed, whatever our politics.

We stand in remembrance of those who were murdered in the darkest hour of human history, we stand in admiration of what our Holocaust survivors have given to our country and we stand united in our resolve to fight prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

– Prime Minister David Cameron
Survivors stand in front of the main gate of the former Nazi-German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz I. Credit: PA

In the 1940’s both my parents fled the Nazis and several of my relatives - including my grandfather - were killed in the Holocaust.

My family’s story is just one of millions of stories of men, women and children who were tragically murdered in the Holocaust because they were Jewish or a member of other persecuted groups.

At a time of rising anti-Semitic attacks in Britain and across Europe, it is imperative that we remember what religious prejudice can lead to.

– Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband
Shoes of victims of the former Nazi-German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz I. Credit: PA

Today, I was honoured to meet and speak with holocaust survivors who have dedicated themselves to bearing witness to the atrocities they and others suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

They are a beacon of hope amidst so much darkness. But, sadly there will be a time when there are no eyewitnesses left. It is therefore even more important that we build the best possible facilities to educate future generations about the Holocaust and continue to tell their stories long after they are gone.

We also remember the millions who lost their lives. Learning about the Holocaust is not just a history lesson. It is one of the greatest antidotes we have to anti-Semitism and extremism of all kinds.

– Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Holocaust Commission approves Memorial Centre. Credit: PA

There were nearly 2,500 responses to a national Call for Evidence by the Commission which included one of Britain’s largest ever gatherings of Holocaust survivors at Wembley Stadium in May.

The consultation found that – although there are pockets of excellence in Holocaust education, there are worrying gaps in young people’s knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust.

A flower leaf lies in the snow in front of the wall of death of the former Nazi-German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz I. Credit: PA

A study by the University College London’s institute of Education of 8,000 young people in England, across all years of secondary school education, found:

  • The majority of those surveyed did not know some of the most fundamental facts that explain why and how the Holocaust happened, even after having studied the Holocaust at school.
  • When asked who was responsible for the Holocaust, the vast majority think only of Hitler and the Nazis – more than 3/4 didn’t recognise that hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens were also complicit in the Holocaust.
  • More than half thought the killing sites were in Germany rather than in Poland.
  • Less than 1/3 knew what “anti-Semitism” meant - compared to more than half who knew what “Islamophobia” meant and 90% who knew what “homophobia” meant.
Former Nazi-German concentration and extermination camp KL Auschwitz I. Credit: PA

A fitting memorial and a state of the art educational centre will ensure that Holocaust commemoration and education reach the widest possible audience.

It has never been more important than it is today for humanity to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

Only through learning about the darkest period in human history can we ensure it will not be repeated.

– Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Survivors attend a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary in Oswiecim, Poland. Credit: PA

The Commission has been working to develop some initial concepts with support from Oscar-winning British company Framestore.

These include, for example, using virtual reality technology to recreate the streets of 1930s Germany, and smart tickets which would allow visitors to interact with digital installations.

BAFTA-winning British production company Atlantic Productions has also offered to work with Holocaust sites such as Auschwitz-Birkenau to use their world-leading laser scanning technology and software to create a permanent digital record of the past and provide valuable information for its future preservation.

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