I had the great privilege of visiting the Porto Holocaust Museum during a recent visit to that fine city. It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience. I was struck by the impressive breadth of the exhibits and artefacts; the dignified curation by Michael Rothwell, Hugo Vaz and their colleagues; and the powerful cry for universal peace they combined to deliver. I encourage everyone to visit.
Holocaust remembrance is an issue of huge importance, not just to me personally but also to the UK, the country I am proud to represent here in Portugal. The UK is a founding and leading member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and will be chairing the organisation in 2024. This will coincide with the opening of the UK’s new Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.
The new Holocaust Memorial will be the national focal point to honour the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust, and other victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma, gay and disabled people. It will be built in the heart of Westminster, right next to Parliament. Planning permission was secured in July this year and construction will conclude in autumn 2024. It will be open ahead of the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2025.
The world-class facility will give visitors powerful and engaging experiences to learn about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur through a variety of mediums including historic photographs, film footage and audio recordings, so that the stories of survivors can be heard by younger generations, present and future. The UK Government will provide free entry to all visitors, in perpetuity.
The UK is committed to combatting the rise of antisemitism in all its forms, both domestically and internationally. We have a longstanding track record of standing up for the rights of members of all faiths and beliefs internationally, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. We were the first country to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, and we encourage others to adopt it. The UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, Lord Pickles, continues to engage with issues relating to Holocaust denial and antisemitism.
During my visit, I was surprised to learn that the Porto Holocaust Museum is the first of its kind on the Iberian peninsula. I am delighted that it has made such an impressive impact so soon after its opening, and sincerely hope its success inspires others in the region to follow its example. It is thanks to the Porto Holocaust Museum, and other museums around the world, that Holocaust survivors can be assured that their stories will continue be told to future generations.