Signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, Prime Minister May wrote: “Our commitment to remember the Holocaust is about more than words. It is about action. It is about raising awareness, spreading understanding, ensuring the memory of the Holocaust lives on, and standing up to prejudice and hatred wherever it is found today”.
Her message continued: “That is why, as Prime Minister, I am proud to be continuing the work to create a national memorial to the Holocaust next to the Houses of Parliament, together with an accompanying educational centre, which will include first-hand testimony of Britain’s Holocaust survivors.”
The Prime Minister wrote: “Together we will educate every generation to learn from the past and to take responsibility for shaping a better, brighter future in which through our actions, as well as our words, we truly never forget”.
Public figures and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum paid their respects by the Book of Commitment, including the UK’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, and Communities and Local Government Secretary Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP.
In his message, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “This year’s theme, ‘how can life go on?’, encourages us to pause and reflect, not only on the terrible truth of the Holocaust, and the innocent lives that were so cruelly wiped out, but to also to draw inspiration from the survivors, who found strength and courage to carry on”.
He continued: “It is important that survivor stories are heard. And as time goes by, it becomes ever more important that we listen, learn, remember, and educate future generations about the causes of the Holocaust, in particular antisemitism. Sadly, this remains an ever-present concern today. We will continue to tackle it head on wherever it is found and stand with our Jewish friends and neighbours around the world in defence of their right to live free from hatred and prejudice”.
The Foreign Secretary underlined: “The UK Government is committed to strengthening international collaboration to promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research. We will continue to honour this commitment, not only through our work with international partners, but also with civil society organisations who are dedicated to these efforts. Together we can put the lessons into practice and so educate the next generation that anti-semitic prejudice is consigned to the past”.
The Prime Minister’s comments reflect a common theme this Holocaust Memorial Day as leading figures in British politics spoke of the importance of learning from the Holocaust in challenging modern-day discrimination.
In a speech at a Holocaust Memorial Trust reception in Parliament, Communities Secretary, Rt. Hon. Sajid Javid MP urged the British public to “call out” racism and anti-Semitism whenever it surfaces. He said “we have to object when a line is crossed from legitimate debate to smears and abuse”. Mr Javid continued: “Ultimately, we have to be prepared to do that most un-British of things — we have to make a scene”.
At a Holocaust Memorial Day event in Israel, UK Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey spoke of the “continuing human cost of the worst crime in history”. Ambassador Quarrey told the audience how the burden of responsibility for preserving the memories of Holocaust survivors rests with all of society, especially as survivors become fewer in numbers.
Mr Quarrey described the role that the Holocaust Memorial Foundation plays in carrying this responsibility in the UK. He stated: “In the UK, Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked each year since 2001. In 2016, around 6,000 different events took place across the UK”.
The Ambassador then shifted focus to the challenge of the rising anti-Semitism in the UK saying, “Holocaust remembrance is vital. But it is also futile if we do not tackle contemporary anti-Semitism. We make a grave mistake if we think this is only a problem of the past”. He assured the audience of Government’s commitment to tackling anti-Semitism, stating that “the British Government would confront all those who seek to undermine the right of Jewish people to live free of fear and harassment”.
The importance of heeding the lessons of the Holocaust by standing up against discrimination was echoed by Baroness Anelay at the Foreign Office’s memorial event where she stated: “it is only by remembering that we can learn from the past and ensure that history does not repeat itself”.