Overrule those who don’t want a memorial to the Six Million

‘YOU can’t dance at two weddings” was the lesson I learned when slipping away after the chuppa of a friend’s daughter to attend a youth movement reunion.

The result? My friend was broigus for years and I realised that those you meet at reunions are, obviously, the people you didn’t want to keep in touch with anyway.

Last week presented me with the “two weddings” dilemma — the hustings for the leadership of the Labour Party and the Westminster Council meeting to decide the fate of the Holocaust Memorial project.

They were both happening at the same time and both being live streamed. Which to view?

It wasn’t too difficult to decide. Having read the statements of the leadership candidates, I had made my choice and, being a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, was able to vote accordingly and, as it turns out, in harmony with the other members.

Ever since the government “called in” the decision, taking it out of their hands, it has been obvious that Westminster Council was opposed to the construction of a Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, close to Parliament.

The meeting atmosphere felt toxic, palpable even from the comfort of home. It was an unpleasant two-and-a-half hours.

The sanctimoniousness of the opposers who began their submissions with crocodile tears for the victims of the Holocaust was succeeded by declarations of the vital need for a memorial . . . somewhere else!

Those speaking in favour of the project spoke first, with dignity and eloquence . . . but little passion.

That may have had something to do with the formality and the presence of cameras. . . or maybe because they knew it was a no-go deal.

A survivor told her tragic story and expressed the wish that the project “will help us learn the lessons we have not learnt so far”.

Karen Pollock explained how it would enhance the work of the Holocaust Education Trust, of which she is chief executive.

She pointed out the urgency of the proposal at a time when antisemitism was on the rise and the survivors would not be with us for much longer.

Most impressive supporters were two Christians, residents of the area (12,000 had signed the petition).

Both regularly spent time in the gardens and, having studied the plans, were convinced that there would still be plenty of space for the public to enjoy and that the landscaping would actually enhance the garden and the views.

Of course, just as the proposers had Christians in support, so the opposers had found Jews to strengthen their case.

One, whose parents were refugees from the Nazis, declared that walking in the gardens had “kept my mother sane”.

Another, most surprisingly, was Trudy Gold, who works in Holocaust education and was also speaking for Baroness Deech.

She reiterated the argument she had made in a national newspaper . . . that the money would be far better spent on improving Holocaust education, “working out the syllabus across the system . . . would be the best memorial to the Holocaust”.

Among the legitimate objections regarding heritage, the trees, parking, security and overcrowding came the bizarre appeal from a local flat-dwelling father, concerned that the project would interfere with his playdays in the park with his two-year-old.

Most disturbing was the chap who burst into tears during his submission.

First, he quoted from Deuteronomy to “prove” that racism had always existed.

He spoke of the “millions of children who have died and will die”, claiming that the HMP detracts from “the forgotten ongoing Holocaust of child martyrs”.

As his voice broke, he choked: “The world only seems to be ashamed of the Jewish Holocaust, not all the others. I speak on behalf of all the children.”

After I wrote here last year in support of the memorial, one detractor went to London to visit the site.

He still is a detractor, believing that the memorial will increase antisemitism. I don’t.

There will always be antisemitism and keeping our heads down has never been an answer.

Other objections from several quarters, including a JT columnist, failing to do his own research, cite the cost — “eye-watering” seems to be the popular cliché here.

They just don’t seem to realise that this isn’t a chunk of money up for grabs but a dedicated amount for a planned memorial that thankfully has the backing of the government.

A public inquiry will be held in the summer giving everyone a chance to have their say.

I say “yea”!

COMEDIAN David Baddiel told what he felt was the only acceptable Holocaust “joke” at his show currently on tour, which I caught at The Lowry in Salford.

A Holocaust survivor dies, goes to heaven and tells God a Holocaust joke. God says: “That’s not funny.” The survivor says: “Ah, well — I guess you had to be there.”


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