A monument to Jews and victims of Nazi persecution and an educational center is expected to open its doors in central London in 2025. Critics fear the memorial will send the wrong message.
After many years of planning, the green light was finally given: the heart of London will have a Massacre Memorial and Education Center. According to the British government, the aim is to create a national venue in Showa to honor the 6 million Jewish victims (Hebrew word used for the Holocaust).
In addition, all others affected by Nazism will be honored, including members of the nomadic Sindhi and Roma ethnic groups, homosexuals and people with disabilities, according to a London press release.
The Combined Education Center will also deal with subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Sudan. Admission is free.
Although it is the UK’s first memorial and education center in the Holocaust, according to the official report, there is already a Holocaust Memorial Garden in Hyde Park, London.
The construction of the memorial in Westminster County has created controversy at the planning stage. Presented by former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron in 2014, the plan was initially rejected by local authorities in 2018. The location in Hyde Park is too close to other monuments in London and does not have enough space.
The government of current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was able to persuade local officials in 2019, but the choice of location was criticized by academics.
Scientists at British universities have vehemently rejected the construction of a Holocaust monument near British government and parliament buildings in Westminster. They fear that this could add unnecessary weight to the role played by the British government in protecting Jews and other victims of Nazism.
In 2018, 42 researchers, including Shirley Gilbert, a renowned professor of Jewish history at University College London, signed an open letter. In the letter, scholars noted that they feared that the UK would portray itself as a successful country with a heroic bailout curriculum that did not match historical research.
Jean-Marc Traffus, a historian and professor of Holocaust at the University of Manchester, did not share this concern.
“The shape of the monument is too vague to portray England as a heroic rescue country,” he said in an interview with DW. But Trafus sees it as complicated. “The monument does not have the Showa logo, it’s very neutral on the outside. It could mean something completely different.”
It is not clear to whom this monument is dedicated: British Jewish citizens who fled to England; To all the Jews affected by the show or to all those persecuted by Nazism.
Traffus says he believes it is necessary to understand the connection between the new monument and Brexit. According to him, Brexit and the construction of the monument – at the same time, were driven by decisions taken during the same period and by conservative governments. “For the government, the monument is a legitimacy for Brexit, so to speak: ‘Look at what happened in Europe at that time – we are no longer part of it.’
Global Memory of the Holocaust
Andrea Lou, a professor at the Holocaust Study Center in Munich, stressed in an interview with DW how international Showa’s memory is. There are museums, educational institutions and monuments in Cape Town, Sydney, Budapest, Israel, Washington, South America. According to Lou, one can talk about the universal memory of the Holocaust.
At this time, according to the historian, the main focus was on the importance of moving from ritual to personal memory. “When I tell them specifically about those in the Holocaust, about the lives they lived before, about their dreams and desires for the future, how they reacted to persecution, and how they behaved, no one gets bored of it.”
That is why historians in Germany have been increasingly working with newspapers and eyewitnesses over the past 20 years, he pointed out.
“As historians, we see it as our mission to carry forward the message of the Witnesses who are now leaving us. That is why so many witnesses have spoken, and many who have lived in the German ghetto have written diaries – desire and desire will never forget Showa,” it says.
“When Hate Reigns”
In this context, historian Trafus also highlights the importance of building an educational center in Hyde Park, London. “This is good news for Showa’s memory and it should continue,” he said.
Trafus hopes the center will spark a more historical and fact-based debate among the British people about Showa. This is not yet the case: the British Holocaust commemoration began only in the 1990s and 2000s and, according to Dreyfus, has an ever-changing ambiguity.
The German historian Lou also emphasizes the importance of educational centers filled with Holocaust monuments in many places.
The British Memorial and Related Education Center will be built in London based on the designs of architectural firms Adjay Associates, Ron Arad Architects and Gustafson Porter + Bowman. Work is scheduled to begin this year, and the memorial is scheduled to be completed and open for viewing in 2025.
In a press release from the British government, he commented on the construction of a memorial to Sir Benjamin Helfcott, a survivor of the British Holocaust. “I am proud that it was built in the heart of our country,” he said. “I know I and the other survivors are no longer here. They will remember the genocide in England and know what happened when hatred ruled.”
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