The new National Holocaust Commission has officially started its work to ensure that Britain has a permanent Holocaust memorial – with prime minister David Cameron searching for six youth advisors to support the project.
As fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remain, the Commission has been set up by Mr Cameron to gather evidence on what Britain needs to do to ensure that the Nazi atrocities are never forgotten.
It will be hearing evidence between now and May and Mr Cameron has said that Holocaust education is to form a key part of its remit. Six youth advisors are also being sought to join a special youth forum convened by Mr Cameron to help the process. The forum will meet in Downing Street later this year to discuss the Commission’s investigation
The Commission's official launch took place on Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and death camps.
The Commission, which includes key figures from the Jewish community and will be supported by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), is to report back to the prime minister ahead of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 2015.
Mr Cameron first unveiled the plan at the HET appeals dinner in September. This week, HET chief executive Karen Pollock, welcomed the start of the Commission’s work: “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.”
Meanwhile, a competition to become one of the six youth advisors has been launched. Young people are being invited to enter by writing an essay answering the question: "Why is it so important that we remember the Holocaust and how can we make sure future generations never forget?"
Six places are up for grabs for the best essays from the age categories 21 and under, 18 and under and 16 and under.
Mr Cameron said: “The young people who win this competition will have an incredibly important task ahead of them. There will be a time when it won’t be possible for survivors to go into our schools to talk about their experiences. The Youth Forum will play a vital role in making sure we continue to learn the lessons of the dreadful events of the Holocaust so that here in Britain no-one ever forgets what happened.”
The Commission comes after the government last term announced an increase in support for the HET’s Lessons from Auschwitz project, giving an additional £300,000 of funding each year.
The programme sees two 6th-formers from every school in England, Wales and Scotland invited to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps each year. Mr Cameron has said that he will visit the camps in 2014 as well.
The closing date of the competition is May 30, and details are available on the HET's website at www.het.org.uk
To respond to the Holocaust Commission’s call for evidence, visit www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-holocaust-commission-keeping-the-memory-alive CAPTION: Never forget: David Cameron speaks with Holocaust survivor Josef Perl at the HET event at which he first unveiled the Holocaust Commission idea