Prime Minister launches Holocaust Commission

27 Jan 2014 12:50 PM

The commission will work to ensure Britain has a permanent memorial to the Holocaust and educational resources for future generations.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter and the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis are to sit on the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Holocaust, David Cameron has announced.

The Prime Minister has given details of the full membership, which also includes cross-party representation from Ed Balls, Michael Gove and Simon Hughes, broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky, educator Dame Helen Hyde, Arts Council Chair Sir Peter Bazalgette and, from the world of business, Leo Noe and Ruby McGregor-Smith. Commissioners will attend a Downing Street reception hosted by the Prime Minister for survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day this evening.

The commission and commission chair, Mick Davis of The Jewish Leadership Council, were first announced by the Prime Minister at the Holocaust Educational Trust 25th anniversary dinner in September 2013. It will investigate whether further measures should be taken to ensure Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial to the Holocaust and educational resources for future generations.

Submit your views

A public call for evidence begins today and will run until the end of May this year, with people across the country invited to submit their views. A number of regional evidence sessions will also be held to hear from interested parties in person. A young person will also be selected from responses to the call for evidence to join the commission as a youth representative.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

Survivors have played a vital role in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive, but we will not always have these remarkable individuals with us. We face a real danger that, as the events of the Holocaust become ever more distant, they feel increasingly remote to current and future generations.

This cross-party, national commission representing our whole society will investigate what more needs to be done to ensure Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial and the educational resources needed for generations to come.

Commission chair Mick Davis said:

The Holocaust stands alone as the darkest hour in human history. Our task is to recommend in addition to what is already done in the United Kingdom, the appropriate way for it to be commemorated so that the memory and lessons of the Holocaust remain central and relevant for future generations.

I urge everyone to share their views on this important issue by responding to the call for evidence we will publish today.

Helena Bonham Carter’s grandfather Eduardo Propper de Callejon was posthumously recognised for his role in saving hundreds of Jews during the Second World War.

Helena Bonham Carter said:

I am very honoured to be asked to join this commission and do so in particular memory of those members of my family who died in the Holocaust and as an inherited responsibility to my grandfather who made a significant personal sacrifice to save hundreds of lives.

It is our generations’ legacy to create a living memory that will survive the survivors and forever remind future generations of the inhumanity man is capable of committing to its own kind.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said:

We thank the Prime Minister for his vision and foresight in setting up the Holocaust Commission. This is a unique opportunity to shape commemoration and education of the greatest evil perpetuated by man, ensuring that we in Britain learn the lessons and do our utmost to prevent the reoccurrence of such atrocities against any group anywhere in the world.

The work of the commission will be supported by 2 expert groups investigating Holocaust education and commemorative events, memorials and museums. The groups will be chaired by commissioners Dame Helen Hyde and Sir Peter Bazalgette respectively. Expert group members include historian Dr Simon Sebag Montefiore, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum Diane Lees and Holocaust survivors Ben Helfgott and Jack Kagan.

The commission will report its findings to the Prime Minister by the end of the year.

Over 50 survivors will join the Prime Minister, commissioners and representatives of The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, The Holocaust Educational Trust and Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivor’s Centre at the Downing Street reception this today.

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

There can be no more fitting assurance to survivors to know that, as their number sadly declines, we are looking ahead to ensure that there is a permanent and fitting memorial to the Holocaust in this country. The Prime Minister’s national Holocaust Commission is a significant step in achieving that goal.

Ben Helfgott MBE, Holocaust survivor, Honorary President of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and member of the expert group on commemoration said:

I know that the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is supporting over 2,000 activities in every part of the country this Holocaust Memorial Day. It is a huge honour that the Prime Minister has chosen to join thousands of Holocaust Memorial Day activity organisers across the UK by holding his own reception and inviting survivors of the Holocaust and of subsequent genocides to Downing Street as his guests.

Janine Webber, a member of Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors Centre said:

As a Holocaust survivor I am very touched by the invitation to Number 10 Downing Street. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has chosen to support Holocaust Memorial Day and show his commitment to remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust and other genocides. We need to be reminded of what can happen when human beings forget their common humanity.

Membership of the Holocaust Commission

The commission members are:

  • Mick Davis (Chair)

  • Rt Hon Michael Gove MP

  • Rt Hon Ed Balls MP

  • Rt Hon Simon Hughes MP

  • Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

  • Helena Bonham Carter CBE

  • Dame Helen Hyde DBE

  • Sir Peter Bazalgette

  • Natasha Kaplinsky

  • Leo Noe

  • Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE

The expert group on education are:

  • Dame Helen Hyde DBE (Chair)

  • Professor David Cesarani OBE

  • The Lord (Daniel) Finkelstein, OBE

  • Henry Grunwald OBE QC

  • Maurice Ostro

  • Dr Simon Sebag Montefiore

The expert group on commemoration are:

  • Sir Peter Bazalgette (Chair)

  • Ben Helfgott MBE

  • Jack Kagan

  • Diane Lees

  • Samir Shah OBE

  • Dr James Smith CBE