David Cameron announces cash boost for Holocaust education

By Marcus Dysch, September 17, 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron speaking to survivors at the Holocaust Educational Trust dinner on Monday

Prime Minister David Cameron speaking to survivors at the Holocaust Educational Trust dinner on Monday

A new group will investigate ways for future generations in Britain to commemorate the Holocaust, David Cameron has revealed.

The Prime Minister announced the creation of the cross-party, multi-faith commission at the Holocaust Educational Trust’s 25th anniversary dinner in central London on Monday evening.

The group will be led by Jewish Leadership Council chairman Mick Davis, with Mr Cameron hosting its first meeting later this year.

A further £300,000 for Holocaust education will be provided by the government, bringing its total funding of HET’s Lessons from Auschwitz programme to £1.85 million.

Speaking to the JC, Mr Cameron said setting up the commission had been a “very personal decision” and that there were “vital questions” still to be answered about keeping the memory of the Shoah alive for future generations.

PM said a new cross-party commission would look at ways to commemorate the Holocaust

He said: “I want my children and their children to learn about what happened in the Holocaust. But they won’t have Holocaust survivors with them sharing their memories first hand. And for them, the history of the Holocaust will feel increasingly distant and remote.

“This is an issue for Britain’s Jewish community. But it is also, vitally, an issue for our whole society. We have a national duty to fight antisemitism — and to ensure that Britain always remembers and learns from what happened in the Holocaust. That’s why it’s right for me as Prime Minister to take this leading role.”

The commission will look at the possibility of creating a “permanent and fitting” Shoah memorial.

In his speech at the dinner, Mr Cameron said: “It is sickening to have to say this, but today — even in the face of survivors going through the pain and suffering of retelling their stories — there are some who try to deny that it ever happened.

“There are some who try to make excuses for it, who try to draw completely inappropriate parallels with other political causes, or who try to suggest it somehow wasn’t quite as bad as others have said.

“And there are some who, probably with much better intentions, fall into the trap of using loose and lazy language, bandying around the term Holocaust when talking about other things.”

Praising HET’s work, including its collaboration with the Football Association, Mr Cameron said it was important to become “ever more imaginative” in keeping survivors’ stories relevant for British schoolchildren. He held a private meeting ahead of the dinner with four Shoah survivors and also met all 30 survivors who attended.

The Prime Minister said he would visit Auschwitz next year. He will ask the new commission to report back to him ahead of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen in April 2015 following consultations with Jewish communal groups, including the Board of Deputies.

He asked: “Should we do more to record the memories and the testimony of the survivors? Can we learn anything from the memorials and commemorations in other countries — like in America or Germany?

“Earlier this year on a visit to Berlin, I sat in the shadow of the Holocaust museum with my family and first tried to explain to my children the enormity of what happened.”

Mr Cameron concluded: “I believe that remembering for the future is vital for us all. When I visited Yad Vashem in 2006 I wrote that: ‘We owe it to those who died — and those who survived — to build a world in which this can never happen again.’

“That is my pledge. That is why Britain will remember. That is why Britain will never stand by. And that is why I stand here as Prime Minister and say to the survivors here tonight: the past will never die and your courage will never be forgotten.”

Last updated: 10:24am, September 18 2013