So I went on Facebook this morning and a friend of mine posted about the £50 million being given by the government to a new Holocaust Memorial and Education Centre in London. My first initial thought when I saw this was “great! An horrific moment in human history and something we must make sure everyone remembers and future generations learn from”. But then he goes on to say how our public services are being cut under the austerity drive and could this money be better spent else where and also why are other attrocities (his example of the treatment the Irish suffered at the hands of the British) not being given the same kind of thing. And this got me thinking.
So lets break this down and look at each part:
The first and biggest part is the rememberance of the Holocaust and the unspeakable acts that happened, not only towards Jews in Nazi occupied Europe, but to all those in the prison camps. I will state this now: THIS MUST NEVER BE FORGOTTEN! Under no circumstance should any future generation be allowed to forget what ahppened during World War II. The only way we can learn for the future is by looking at the past and this must never be seen in our world again.
That being said, is spending £50million on a monument the best way of doing this? Would that money not be better spent going into the education system to ensure our schools and universities teach the next generation every aspect of the Holocaust, not only the surface levels that the media show us? I’m stuck in the middle. A monument does have an effect on people. Out of sight, out of mind. But if you’ve got a whacking great building stood in front of you, people go “oh yeah, thats for xyz”. Advertising at it were. It piques folks interest and then they investigate it further. But £50 million is a lot of money which I’m sure the education system would be happy to invest in teacher training/books/study aids to not only pique childrens interest, but to ensure that ALL of them know what happened.
Now we reach the part of “other attorcities”. I don’t think he gave this comment much thought at all, for two reasons:
- His use of the Irish is moot as the British government will NEVER erect a monument to things it did (yes, we treated you terribly, so have a statue as a way of saying sorry)
- Nothing like the Holocaust has ever happened before. Yes, there has been mass genocide all over the world for varying reasons (the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, the genocide in Rwanda). but never on the systematic nature and speed with which the Nazis worked.
He mentioned slavery of African people sent to America and other things, but these acts were done over a sweeping time span. Through education, the countries involved in slavery were brought up and out of that and saw it for what it was, a barbaric act which actually hindered the development of their business (a paid person works much harder than a slave), because business was what drove slavery. The Holocaust was not business driven. It was a twisted ideology that infected a desperate people and gave them a glimmer of hope and a scapegoat for this position. The two, in my opinion, cannot be compared. Chalk and chesse without doubt.
I guess what I’m trying to say is I agree and disgaree with my friend. Yes, £50million during a time of austerity is a huge amount of money to spend when public services are being squeezed, but would £50million get the education system very much? I don’t know, but if this Memorial Centre is used as an education centre (almost museum) then good, I’ll go with it. No, the holocaust and slavery (of any people) cannot be compared because they arose (in my view) from very different circumstances. But without doubt, the most overriding thing of all this is:
WE MUST NEVER FORGET THE HOLOCAUST.