Photo: Getty Images
'More and more UK organizations are building alliances with Yad Vashem'
Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Mati Milstein
British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould
Photo: Mati Milstein

UK sees Holocaust remembrance as a sacred task

Op-ed: British ambassador to Israel says his country has put itself at forefront of teaching children about Holocaust in post-survivor age.

When the sirens sound on Holocaust Memorial Day, like the rest of Israel I stop to remember those who died, and those who survived.



I remember my grandfather. He came from Warsaw in the 1920s, leaving behind brothers and sisters, who died with all their families. Until the day he died my grandfather never stopped grieving, never let go of his anger over the injustice of their murder.


The Holocaust is so huge that we cannot hope to comprehend its enormity. Six million is a number beyond imagination. The only way that we can touch it, and teach it, is through the stories of individuals – those who died, and particularly those who survived.


The stories of the survivors are the most vivid and powerful testimony to what happened, and the best bridge between our present and our past.


Yet there are fewer and fewer survivors with each passing year. In a few years there will be none. And this poses an awful dilemma to all those who want each new generation to understand what happened. It will be much harder to teach our children about the Holocaust in the post-survivor age.


Britain has put itself at the forefront of the task of working out what to do about this dilemma. Our prime minister, David Cameron, has made it a personal mission to ensure we find answers to the question of how we remember the Holocaust in the future. It is an enormous and humbling task. Our response has three main elements.


First, David Cameron has set up a cross-party Commission to answer the key questions: How do we teach the Holocaust in schools when there are no more survivors? How should we ensure the memory does not dim with time? The Commission contains community leaders, politicians, survivors and educators. Several came to Israel with the Prime Minister when he visited in March. Their work is vital, and their deliberations have attracted huge attention and respect.


Second, Britain is now the chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – the leading international body dedicated to preserving and learning from the legacy of the most terrible crime in history.


Last week, I was in London at the same time as the first plenary session of our chairmanship. I was proud to hear firsthand the determination to use our leadership to strengthen the work of the Alliance. The UK was one of the founding signatories of the Stockholm Declaration of 2000, through which we pledged that the terrible events of the Holocaust would remain forever seared in our collective memory.


Third, we are building the UK's links with Yad Vashem. I will never forget David Cameron’s visit to Yad Vashem. The prime minister and Ben Helfgott, a survivor of Theresienstadt who went on to represent Britain in the Olympics, standing together in the Hall of Remembrance. It was a powerful moment.


I am always impressed by the pioneering work of Yad Vashem. Their commitment to keeping alive the memory of victims of the Holocaust is humbling. So I am delighted that more and more UK organizations are building alliances with Yad Vashem.


The Holocaust Research Centre at Royal Holloway University is creating an annual fellowship enabling UK researchers to spend time at Yad Vashem. And London’s Weiner Library is partnering with Yad Vashem to give PhD students from Europe and Israel unparalleled access to unique collections at both institutions.


As ambassador, I am proud of the flourishing links between Yad Vashem and British organizations, our leadership in the IHRA, and the work being done in the Prime Minister's Holocaust Commission.


As a member of Britain's Jewish community, I was proud to hear David Cameron speak in the Knesset about his personal determination to preserve the memory of the victims of the Holocaust long into the future, and of his vision that every child in Britain should learn about the Holocaust.


As the grandchild of a man whose family was devastated by the Holocaust, I know how much this matters. I am reminded with every visit to Yad Vashem. Remembering is a sacred task.


Matthew Gould is Britain's ambassador to Israel.


פרסום ראשון: 05.24.14, 00:35
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