‘Build a Jewish museum, not a memorial’

Holocaust survivors are among those against the £139 Holocaust memorial and education centre


The design of the Holocaust memorial in Victoria Gardens

Campaigners against the proposed £139 million million Holocaust memorial next to Parliament have said that the money would be better spent on a new Jewish museum.

The comments came during the Holocaust Memorial Bill Committee hearings, where closing arguments were presented on Tuesday.

Baroness Ruth Deech, who has been vocal about her objections to the project, said that “23 sticks sticking up in the air” had “nothing to do with the Holocaust”.

She also questioned what the proposed plans for a learning centre would do to solve the crisis of “poor Holocaust education” in this country.

“The government is not asking why things are not working, and it wants this memorial to tell a narrative of the Holocaust that makes them look good,” she said.

She said that she feared the centre would not do enough to draw connections between the Holocaust and contemporary antisemitism “which is essential”, adding that money would be better spent on a new Jewish Museum in central London. “It seems to me quite wrong that we don’t have a museum. We could have one that would be critical in tackling today’s antisemitism targeted at Israel.”

Witnesses were asked if it was important to get the memorial built before the last remaining survivors of the Holocaust died, an argument put forward by supporters of the project.

Holocaust survivor Joanna Millan BEM, 81, urged MPs not to make this a reason for passing the bill.

She said: “Don’t hurry it through because I might be dead tomorrow. It has got to be right. I want to see a memorial that is right, in the right place, for the right price.”

She also raised concerns about the proposed cost of the memorial and what others might think when the country is facing a cost-of-living crisis.“Why is all this money being spent on Jews? What about our hospitals?”

Millan also objected to the design, saying it looked like a “toast rack”.

Planning permission for the Westminster memorial project was granted in 2021, but the decision was successfully challenged in the High Court on the grounds that a 1900 law contained a prohibition on using Victoria Tower Gardens.

The garden was created in 1880 on the understanding that it would be “open to the public... and available as a recreation ground”.

But last year, the government, which has been spearheading the memorial project, introduced the Holocaust Memorial Bill, which would remove the obstacle of the 1900 legislation.

If the bill is passed, planning consent would still be required.

Baroness Deech also raised concerns about Sir David Adjaye, the architect behind the monument, who was forced to stand down after accusations of sexual abuse and harassment by three employees at his firm Adjaye Associates.

Staff claimed that they had been left in emotional distress after sexual abuse and harassment by Sir David, 56, one Britain’s most highly regarded architects. Sir Adjaye has said that he strongly rejected the allegations.

Baroness Deech said: “It is not appropriate that his design remains. Regardless of anything else that happens, that should be changed.”

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said in July: “We are aware of the allegations and have spoken with Adjaye Associates. They have confirmed that Sir David will not be involved in the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation project until the issues raised have been addressed.”

Former Prime Minister David Cameron first proposed the idea of a Holocaust memorial in 2014 when he set up a commission to consider what was needed to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

Earlier this year, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said the government was “absolutely determined to complete the Holocaust Memorial at the very heart of our national life to preserve the memory of what happened”.

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