The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 30 November 2023.
The Foreign Secretary sent a video message to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Zagreb plenary, outlining priorities for the UK presidency next year.
Secretary-General, Ambassador Gras and Ms Lustig, distinguished IHRA members, it is an honour to address you all ahead of Britain’s Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
The Nazis’ murder of 6 million Jews was the darkest hour in human history. An abject moral catastrophe. A moment forever seared in our collective memory. A moment which must never happen again.
Tragically, recent events have underlined its continued relevance today. Israel was founded in the shadow of the Holocaust as a place of sanctuary for the Jewish people. Hamas poses an immediate, existential threat to the very idea of such a state.
And we have seen the ugly face of anti-Semitism resurface, with an unprecedented surge in hate crime globally since the barbaric attacks of October 7th. Shamefully, this was also the case in the United Kingdom.
And so, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said, we all share a responsibility to keep the promise recently projected onto the Brandenburg Gate: ‘Never again is now’.
This Alliance exists to keep that promise. To uphold the 2000 Stockholm Declaration. To protect the memory of all Holocaust victims and survivors. To ensure we truly grasp its lessons for today. To contribute to the struggle against repugnant antisemitic beliefs, whatever form they take.
Remembrance requires a collective effort, bringing together governments and academics, educators and faith leaders, survivors and young people, countries from around the world.
It is something I have always tried to contribute to. As a father, sitting with my young children in the shadow of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, trying to explain to them the horror of the Holocaust. As a citizen, learning from the bravery of survivors like Susie Lind or Jack Kagan, or my own visit to Auschwitz, a harrowing reminder of why we must stand up for inclusiveness and tolerance. And in my time as Prime Minister, setting up the Holocaust Commission, who recommended establishing the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre that will soon be built right here in the heart of London.
I am therefore proud as Foreign Secretary that Britain will soon take over the presidency of the IHRA once again. I pay tribute to the Croatian presidency, in particular its co-chairs. We look forward to sustaining the momentum you have generated behind the Alliance’s work plan.
We will soon mark the 85th anniversary of the first Kindertransport, that great rescue of almost ten thousand Jewish children. I once met one, whose grandfather had written in their diary before they fled Prague, “be a great daughter to the country that gives you a home”.
And all of them were great children to their new homelands, living ten, twenty lives over, for all those they left behind. They became Nobel prize winners, a member of the House of Lords, the midwife who first held the future King Charles the Third.
Our Presidency coincides with other significant anniversaries. The 80th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. And the 25th anniversary of the Stockholm Declaration.
Each anniversary leaves us torn, with joy at what was achieved, almost overwhelmed by grief at lives lost and potential unfulfilled. Each, however, must spur us on to guarantee the future of Holocaust remembrance.
With memory of it soon to pass out of our living history, I have always believed we have a sacred duty. To keep knowledge of it strong and vibrant, educating children of whatever faith or none, reaching out to all parts of society in each country represented today.
Our Presidency therefore aims to help children understand that the Holocaust did not happen in secret, hidden away in a dark corner, beyond most citizens’ gaze. It took place in plain sight.
We want to shine a spotlight on the circumstances that led up to the Holocaust, the nature of society that allowed it to happen, in plain sight. We will bring into focus all those who played a part, be it as perpetrators, rescuers or bystanders.
We will remember all those murdered for who they were and what they believed – the 6 million Jewish people, Roma, disabled, gay men, political opponents and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
We aim to reach thousands of young people across the Alliance, supporting them to undertake local projects on the impact of the Holocaust in their home towns.
Alongside this, we will prioritise tackling the continued rise of Holocaust distortion. We have a duty to protect the facts, fighting back against attempts to minimise or erase the devastation endured by the Jewish people.
Artificial Intelligence offers transformative possibilities for education. But there are risks that it fuels distorted narratives. Our Presidency, together with the OSCE, will therefore convene AI, social media and other experts to address our response to Holocaust distortion, including from deep fake technology and disinformation online.
We also welcome IHRA support to Ukraine over the past 21 months, working with its remit to translate IHRA guidance into Russian and Ukrainian. Like many IHRA member states, Ukraine has a complex Holocaust history.
And I heard during my recent visit how Russia is spreading false narratives to justify its illegal invasion. Given this, it is vital that IHRA continues to support them in protecting their sites and records.
For 25 years, the Alliance has embodied the spirit of its first honorary chair, Elie Wiesel. Like him, we all “want to protect and enrich the kingdom of memory, glorify that kingdom and serve it”.
The UK is looking forward to welcoming you all next year, to Glasgow in June and London in December. And to working with you all in service of that kingdom.