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Faith leaders support siting of Holocaust memorial

09 August 2019


The proposed design for the Holocaust memorial centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster

The proposed design for the Holocaust memorial centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster

THE Archbishop of Canterbury and other senior faith leaders have said that they support a proposal for a Holocaust memorial and museum next to the Palace of Westminster.

Archbishop Welby has written to Westminster Council urging it to approve proposals to build a series of bronze structures in Victoria Tower Gardens, and an underground learning centre, to commemorate the millions killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Because Britain was not immune to anti-Semitism and racism, it was vital to preserve “the memory of the thin line which distinguishes us from the atrocities of the past”, Archbishop Welby said.

Another letter backing the memorial — from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols; the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis; and the chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, Qari Asim — has also been sent to the council.

The Holocaust memorial was first proposed in 2015, but there has been some opposition to its siting in Victoria Tower Gardens, a small park on the bank of the Thames which is adjacent to the Houses of Parliament.

If built as currently designed, the memorial will take up more than a quarter of the park.

Advisors to UNESCO, the Environment Agency, and the Royal Parks have all raised concerns that the memorial could impair sightlines to Parliament, compromise flood defences, and harm the park’s function as a green space in the heart of central London.

Archbishop Welby and the other faith leaders, however, have said that it is essential to site the memorial centre next to the epicentre of British democracy. “Experience is deepened by symbolism,” Archbishop Welby wrote. “The symbolism of this centre, right next to the home of our democracy, is profound and hugely powerful.

“I believe it will add significantly to the status of the City of Westminster as a place of government that is a world model.”

This message was echoed by the new Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, who said that rising anti-Semitism showed the need for a Holocaust centre “in the shadow of Parliament”.

The project was a priority for the Government, he said, and would “send a clear message that there is no place for hatred in our society.

“Building this powerful memorial at the heart of our democracy will ensure that politicians never lose sight of what happens when prejudice goes unchecked, and remind us of our responsibility to root out the cancer of anti-Semitism, wherever it exists.”

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