SWC letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay regarding the UK National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre

September 11, 2019


In a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations Dr.Shimon Samuels, noted that "UNESCO seems to have taken a position against the 'Making Memory UK National Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster, London, abutting the Houses of Parliament on the River Thames', adding that "the concept was born in 2015, yet a planning application is still being considered by Westminster City Council."


The letter continued, "Meanwhile Royal Parks, a charity, described the gardens as a “highly sensitive location in planning and heritage terms” - i.e. designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site...


"Royal Parks insisted that, “the structure will dominate the park and eclipse the existing listed memorials which are nationally important in their own right.”


A member of the “Save Victoria Tower Gardens” campaign claimed that “The scale... is deliberately obtrusive because it’s intended to be shocking and attention-grabbing”... “It should be moved to Westminster’s College Green or the Imperial War Museum.”


"The memorial is designed to honour the Jewish victims of the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution, including Roma, LGBT and the disabled. The planners argue that they will take up 27% of the green space currently in the park...Its propinquity to the British Parliament aims to focus on the need to sensitize the public and their MP’s to the dangers of bigotry, prejudice, hate and violence against the other"...stressed Samuels, continuing,

"The design and architectural winning team for the project is led by British Ghanaian David Adjaye and Ron Arad.and is expected to cost £100 million. The park is currently home to three memorials, the Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin, The Buxton abolitionist Memorial Fountain and the Emmeline Pankhurst suffragettes Memorial"


Apparently, ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), the advisor to UNESCO, has objected to the location saying that "the project would interrupt substantially the park’s view of the Tower and Palace,” adding, “two lines of trees may not survive” and “have a massive visual impact.”


Indeed, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, has supported the project and a co-signed letter encouraging it has been endorsed by 174 politicians, while a new design has been presented “to accomodate planting adjacent to the fence.”


A spokeswoman of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has assured that, “The proposals have been developed with great sensitivity to the existing context and character of the gardens – we will retain 73% of the open public space, improve views over parliament and the River Thames, and provide a range of accessible seating and a new boardwalk along the embankment.”


"It is clear that a Holocaust memorial cannot become subject to a debate in the guise of the environment...UNESCO, on the one hand, has a declared interest in Holocaust Education. It can not, on the other hand, be abused as an obstacle to this Holocaust Memorial...Our Centre urges a clear response to the media which has already placed the issue at UNESCO’s doorstep...We call on you, Madam Director-General, to take appropriate and rapid action," concluded Samuels.

For further information contact Shimon Samuels on sts018@gmail.com, join the Center on Facebook, www.facebook.com/simonwiesenthalcenter, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter feed.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).


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