In our fifth blog commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day, Sir Andrew Burns, the United Kingdom's first Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, writes about the work of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in promoting Holocaust Remembrance in the UK.
Seventy years ago the British Government, shocked by mounting evidence of Nazi extermination of the Jews, joined eleven other war-time allies (by then known as the United Nations) in a sharp united condemnation of what was happening on the continent of Europe. Sir Anthony Eden was the British Foreign Secretary at the time and his Statement to Parliament on 17 December 1942 was the first multinational recognition and public condemnation of what was happening. It was broadcast from London over a worldwide radio network in 23 different languages. It was followed by much public and Parliamentary discussion in the UK and among the United Nations about what could be done to stop the genocide. It prompted subsequent allied planning for the post-war trials of Nazi leaders.
The horrific events of the Holocaust continue to reverberate through Western society, as the Stockholm Declaration issued by world leaders in January 2000 so eloquently acknowledged. I was appointed by the Foreign Secretary in 2010 as the UK’s Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues to ensure that the UK plays its full part in implementing the commitments which we and other governments have made since then to ensure that the events of the Holocaust Era are properly understood and not forgotten, that the lingering consequences (return of stolen property, care of survivors, resurgent antisemitism, promoting remembrance and family reunions) are addressed and that the lessons from that disastrous period of history guide us in the future.
Therefore I feel great pride in the fact that the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education,Remembrance and Research (ITF) has been at the forefront of these international efforts. The Holocaust Educational Trust, the Centre for Holocaust Education at London University, and the London Jewish Cultural Centre are three of a number of British organisations which have played particularly prominent roles in developing innovative ways of teaching about the Holocaust.
Despite the excellent work of these organisations, there is still work to be done to ensure that the Holocaust has a permanent place in the world’s collective memory. The ITF has just been renamed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the United Kingdom will assume the chairmanship of the IHRA for a year in 2014/15, a year which, significantly, takes us to the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. This is an opportunity to make sure that Holocaust education and research in this country goes from strength to strength.