Holocaust memorial centre announced as UK marks Auschwitz anniversary

Holocaust Memorial Image copyright Chris Jackson
Image caption Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall attended the Westminster ceremony with Holocaust survivors

A new Holocaust memorial and education centre in central London is to receive £50m from the government.

The announcement came as commemorative events were held in Britain on Holocaust Memorial Day. The Queen said it was a time to "remember all those affected".

Politicians and religious leaders joined some UK-based survivors for a service in Central Hall, Westminster.

It marked 70 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

In a message to mark the anniversary, the Queen referred to "those who died, those who have rebuilt their lives in Britain, and the rescuers and liberators who took great risks to assist and save their fellow human beings".

About 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed at the camp between 1940 and 1945.

Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army of the Soviet Union on 27 January 1945. It opened as a museum in 1947.

Other events in the UK included:

  • Auschwitz survivors lighting candles at a ceremony at the Imperial War Museum in London
  • Seventy candles lit at York Minster, one for every year since the liberation
  • A Holocaust Memorial Day service at Ayr Town Hall, attended by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
  • An address by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones at Cardiff City Hall to honour victims and their families
  • Annual wreath-laying at Lowestoft railway station in Suffolk, where around 200 Jewish evacuee children arrived in 1938.

'Energy and commitment'

In a message in the official programme of commemorative events, the Queen said: "Many refugees and survivors of the camps and ghettoes found a home in the United Kingdom and have given us their energy and commitment.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Holocaust survivor Ela Weissberger looks at one of 70 special candles commissioned to mark the anniversary, in Ayr.
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Candles were lit during a service at St Barnabas Church, Middlesbrough
Image copyright Jeff J Mitchell
Image caption Messages of remembrance were placed outside at Kyle Academy in Ayr

The UK memorial and education centre was recommended in a report by the cross-party Holocaust Commission.

It will be a "world-class" education and learning centre to maintain awareness for generations to come of "the darkest hour of human history", Prime Minister David Cameron said at the Westminster event.

Some of the government's £50 million funding will go towards the construction of the "striking and prominent" monument and an endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education.

'Extraordinary' survivors

After announcing the funding in the Commons, Chancellor George Osborne told MPs: "We will go on funding the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, which takes MPs and many, many school children to Auschwitz to see for themselves the horror that happened there.

"I think across the House we can come together to commemorate this day but also to make sure it is never forgotten... and we never repeat its mistakes."

Addressing the Westminster event, attended by the Prince of Wales and many public figures, Mr Cameron said it was "time for Britain as a nation to stand together and say 'we will remember'.

"We will teach every generation the British values of respect and tolerance that we hold dear.

"And we will ensure that they can learn from the stories of our Holocaust survivors long after we have all gone."

Image copyright Chris Jackson
Image caption Prince Charles told the audience the Holocaust must always be remembered as an "unparalleled human tragedy"
Image copyright Chris Jackson
Image caption Leaders of the three main Westminster parties attended the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony

Prince Charles said the Holocaust must always be remembered and all its victims honoured as it was "an act of evil unique in history".

"Details of the Nazis' diabolical enterprise can help future generations, wherever they may be, understand not just what happened across Europe, but how this came to happen."

Among the invited audience were Holocaust survivors and their families, Labour leader Ed Miliband, Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

Mr Miliband, whose grandfather died in one of the Nazi death camps, said: "It's an emotional day for people who have memories and families involved in this.

"When there's prejudice around the world and we see a rise in anti-Semitism, it's incredibly important that we keep that memory alive."

There were speeches, readings and musical performances from contributors including cellist Simon Wallfisch - grandson of 89-year-old Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a surviving member of the women's orchestra in Auschwitz.

Six candles designed by sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor were lit by five Holocaust survivors and a survivor from the Bosnian war.

Auschwitz-Birkenau - a network of several forced labour and extermination camps - is the best known of all Nazi camps.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites