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The Westminster Holocaust Memorial is the wrong memorial in the wrong place

David Adjaye's design for the proposed Holocaust Memorial in Westminster 
David Adjaye's design for the proposed Holocaust Memorial in Westminster resembles a toast rack Credit: Adjaye Associates and Ron Arad Architects

 

The Holocaust Memorial planned for Victoria Tower Gardens may not receive planning permission from Westminster Council, and this is right, even if every living prime minister supports it.

I suppose they have to say they want a Holocaust Memorial in the shadow of Parliament, even if there was no Holocaust of British Jews. To say the opposite would be too complicated.

It might - considering Labour's wretched anti-Semitism crisis - be taken the wrong way. Or it might be considered opportunism. Even so, it is the wrong memorial in the wrong place.

It looks like a large toast-rack; the other designs were no better. They were too monumental in scale, too grandiose. They reminded me more of Nazism - did Nazis like toast? - than pre-war Jewish life, which is what they are supposed to commemorate, aren't they?

I can't see anything Jewish in toast racks and ornamental shapes. They are generic and unimaginative; monuments to mass murder designed by rote, pulled from a file. In Berlin and Vienna they are largely ignored. I do not think they commemorate catastrophe. They inure you to it.

I am a British Jew and I don't want the Holocaust to become the universal symbol of human wickedness, against which all others are measured.

It is offensive to the Jew to be made a paradigm - particularly here, where none died, except those from the Channel Islands - and offensive to the sufferings of others unmourned. I should like, for instance, to see a memorial to the victims of slavery.

You could make the whole of London a Holocaust memorial - or have a Holocaust memorial in every town from Penzance to Aberdeen - and it would do nothing to stay the rise of anti-Semitism, and racism more generally.

The Nazis themselves proved that you cannot educate people out of murderous racism; if you could, why was it the most cultured nation in Europe that butchered its Jews?

Anti-Semitism is a warning that society is fracturing; that people are afraid. You cannot stop that by building ugly statuary in the West End and compelling schoolchildren to look at it.

There is already a Holocaust memorial in London. It is in Hyde Park. It is a simple stone engraved with words from Lamentations: "For these I weep / Streams of tears flow from my eyes / Because of the destruction of my people."

What else needs to be said?