A Holocaust memorial in London is “ever more important” amid rising antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the chair of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum has said.
Henry Grunwald warned there is “something sick happening in this society” as antisemitism has climbed since Hamas launched a barbaric attack on Israel on October 7, sparking the war.
Scotland Yard has said London saw a “massive increase” in anti-Semitic incidents began following the attack, from the playing of German military music to intimidation outside synagogues.
Mr Grunwald told the Standard: “The need for something to mark the Holocaust in London is ever more important now because of everything that has come up in the last few months.
“The saddest thing is it’s needed, not because it is about something that happened in the 1930s and 40s. This is what is going on now.”
‘I Say British, You Say Jewish’ exhibition launch yesterday.
Diverse visitors inc 1️⃣ People returning from #100Days rally who said it lifted their spirits and 2️⃣anti-Israelists who hopefully learned to conflate Nazi tropes & today’s war a little less.
It’s good to talk. pic.twitter.com/d9rJhhyOLf
— The National Holocaust Centre and Museum (@HolocaustCentUK) January 15, 2024
In November long-promised plans for a Holocaust Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens were outlined in the King's speech.
The area was first announced as the site for the memorial in January 2016, but the Government has faced a long legal fight with campaigners who have argued it is the wrong location for a tribute, which will take up 7.5 per cent of the public park.
Asked about the memorial Mr Grunwald said it is a “fantastic idea” but it is not affecting what is happening now as the monument may not start being built until 2028.
He added that there is a “fear” that there could be anti-Semitic abuse at the monument and that security measures would have to be incredibly strong.
Mr Grunwald, who is also the vice-chair of the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, has also raised concerns about the amount of antisemitism at Pro-Palestine marches.
Protestors have been marching in London “every week wearing Hamas-style head-bands, shouting genocidal chants, calling for jihad against the Jewish state and inciting violent intifada with apparent impunity”, the CEO of the Campaign against Antisemitism Gideon Falter has said.
Speaking about the protests Mr Grunwald said: “I am afraid that what we have seen on the streets of London in the last few months has not shown that respect to other people who have spent their lives in this city as proud Londoners.
“We need people to see racism for what it is and for too long antisemitism is not being seen as other forms of racism,” he added. “If people marched through London with other banners and slogans from another group there would be an outcry. It would not be allowed.”
The National Holocaust Museum has launched a touring exhibition to highlight examples of antisemitism amid rising tensions.
The museum's director Marc Cave has warned that old anti-Semitic lines are being “repackaged” amid the conflict and that there is a “very low bar of knowledge” about antisemitism.
The exhibition, which is based outside Hampstead Theatre in Swiss Cottage until January 20 and includes items on loan from the Jewish Museum of London, raises concerns “that some people are so ready to erase British Jewish freedoms because of the Hamas-Israel war 3000 miles away”.