On 2 February 2024, the House of Lords will debate the following motion: 

Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Conservative) to move that this House takes note of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Baroness Scott is a parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.[1] She holds ministerial responsibility for faith and Holocaust Memorial policy within the department.[2]

1. Theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2024

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) has taken place in the UK on 27 January since 2001.[3] Each year, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chooses a different theme to enable audiences on Holocaust Memorial Day to learn something new about the past and a focus for reflection. Every theme is relevant to the Holocaust, Nazi persecution and to each subsequent genocide.

The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2024 is ‘Fragility of freedom’.

Speaking to the reasons for this selection, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust stated:

Freedom means different things to different people. What is clear is that in every genocide that has taken place, those who are targeted for persecution have had their freedom restricted and removed, before many of them are murdered. This is often a subtle, slow process. The 10 stages of genocide, as identified by Professor Gregory Stanton, demonstrate that genocide never just happens. There is always a set of circumstances which occur, or which are created, to build the climate in which genocide can take place and in which perpetrator regimes can remove the freedoms of those they are targeting.

Not only do perpetrator regimes erode the freedom of the people they are targeting, demonstrating how fragile freedom is, they also restrict the freedoms of others around them, to prevent people from challenging the regime. Despite this, in every genocide there are those who risk their own freedom to help others, to preserve others’ freedom or to stand up to the regime.[4]

The trust argued that too many people, particularly in advanced western societies, take such freedoms too lightly:

Today many people in western democracies take freedoms for granted—this HMD, we can reflect on how these freedoms need to be valued, and on how many people around the world face restrictions to their freedoms to live, worship, work and love freely.

For example, Uyghur Muslims in China are facing forced relocation [in] Xinjiang province, ‘re-education’ that threatens to eradicate the Uyghur culture, and other limits to free expression, free movement and freedom of worship.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, having escaped religious persecution in Myanmar.

Conflict is still ongoing in the Darfur region of Sudan. Survivors of the genocide, now safe in the UK, are terrified for the safety of their family members still in Darfur, and scared to speak out publicly in the UK lest their family members’ lives are threatened.[5]

On HMD 2024, the Holocaust Memorial Trust has called upon everyone to “reflect on how freedom is fragile and vulnerable to abuse”. It adds: “As we come together in communities around the UK, let’s pledge not to take our freedoms for granted, and consider what we can do to strengthen freedoms around the world”.[6]

2. Reported rise of antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in the UK

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day takes place at the same time as a reported rise in the number of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in the UK.

The Community Security Trust (CST), a UK charity that works to protect Jews from antisemitism and other threats, and Tell MAMA (the Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks reporting and monitoring service) have both reported a significant rise in the number of both antisemitic and anti-Muslim incidents in the UK since the outbreak of the current crisis in Gaza and the wider Middle East.[7]

On 13 December 2023, the CST reported that between 7 October and 13 December 2023 there were “at least 2,093 antisemitic incidents [reported to the CST] across the UK”.[8] The CST, which has been recording antisemitic incidents since 1984, noted that was “the highest ever total reported to CST across a 68-day period”.

Similarly, Tell MAMA reported on 20 December 2023 that it had seen a “seven-fold rise” in numbers of anti-Muslim cases reported to them over the same period.[9] Tell MAMA recorded an estimated 1,432 cases between 7 October and 13 December 2023, up from the 2022 figure of 195 cases. Again, it said that this represented “the largest rise in reports to our service across 68 days”.

UN Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk reported in November 2023 that the UN had seen a similar rise in the level of such incidents globally.[10]

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that the UK government has “zero tolerance for antisemitism or indeed anti-Muslim hatred in any form”.[11] In October 2023, he announced that £3mn in additional funding would be given to the CST to provide more protection to Jewish communities.[12]

This was followed in December 2023 by Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch announcing the government would be issuing updated guidance to public authorities on discrimination. Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms Badenoch said:

In my last topical statement, I spoke about the unacceptable rise in antisemitism and hostility towards the Jewish community since 7 October, and I am updating the House on what further action I can take to promote social cohesion. The Equality Act 2010 is a shield against discrimination, and the public sector equality duty is part of that shield. It is particularly important that all public authorities take the duty seriously. To ensure that they understand how to comply with the duty, I will be publishing updated guidance shortly. I will then write to leaders of public authorities that have a key role in promoting social cohesion, to show how they can foster good relations, promote equality of opportunity and eliminate unlawful discrimination.[13]

Updated guidance was published on 18 December 2023.[14]

The government has also issued advice to schools and colleges on the crisis in Gaza and a five-point plan to deal with antisemitism in universities.[15]

3. Plans for a Holocaust memorial in the UK: Latest developments

In 2014, the then prime minister, David Cameron, launched the Holocaust Commission to assess whether measures were needed to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. In its 2015 report, the commission recommended the creation of a “striking and prominent new national memorial” which should be “co-located with a world-class learning centre”.[16]

In January 2016, the government announced that the memorial would be located in Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Palace of Westminster. The decision to co-locate the learning centre with the memorial was taken by the government in September 2016.[17]

There remains broad support for a memorial. However, the decision to locate it in Victoria Tower Gardens has led to concerns over the impact upon the site, which is a Grade II listed park, and other memorials located there.

In January 2019, the government submitted a planning application to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to the local planning authority, Westminster City Council. However, in November 2019 the government “called-in” the planning application for their own determination.[18]

Following a public inquiry led by a planning inspector, in July 2021 the then housing and planning minister gave permission to build the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens. The London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust challenged this decision in the High Court on procedural grounds, and the decision was quashed in April 2022.[19]

The government has since put forward the Holocaust Memorial Bill, a hybrid bill which seeks to remove some of the obstacles to the memorial being placed in Victoria Tower Gardens (principally by disapplying sections of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900), though planning consent would still be required.[20]

The bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 28 June 2023.[21] A select committee was subsequently set up to oversee what is known as the bill’s petitioning period, whereby individuals and bodies directly and specially affected by the bill are provided with the opportunity to object to the bill’s provisions and to seek its amendment. The committee is currently holding evidence sessions, where the potential placement of the memorial has generated criticism from some Holocaust survivors and descendants of those killed in the Holocaust.[22]

4. Read more

Cover image by photoangel on Freepik.


  1. UK Parliament, ‘Baroness Scott of Bybrook: Parliamentary career’, accessed 25 January 2024. Return to text
  2. HM Government, ‘Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE’, accessed 25 January 2024. Return to text
  3. House of Commons Library, 'General debate on Holocaust Memorial Day 2024', 23 January 2024. Return to text
  4. Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, ‘HMD 2024 theme’, accessed 24 January 2024. Return to text
  5. As above. Return to text
  6. As above. Return to text
  7. Community Security Trust, ‘Antisemitic incidents: 13 December update’, 13 December 2023; and Tell MAMA, ‘Tell MAMA recorded 1,432 anti-Muslim cases between Oct 7 and Dec 13’, 20 December 2023. Return to text
  8. Community Security Trust, ‘Antisemitic incidents: 13 December update’, 13 December 2023. Return to text
  9. Tell MAMA, ‘Tell MAMA recorded 1,432 anti-Muslim cases between Oct 7 and Dec 13’, 20 December 2023. Return to text
  10. Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘UN human rights chief condemns rise in hatred’, 4 November 2023. Return to text
  11. HC Hansard, 23 October 2023, col 609. Return to text
  12. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘PM announces new support to keep British Jewish communities safe’, 12 October 2023; and House of Commons Library, ‘Increases in antisemitic offences’, 8 January 2024. Return to text
  13. HC Hansard, 13 December 2023, col 884. Return to text
  14. Government Equalities Office, ‘Public sector equality duty: Guidance for public authorities’, 18 December 2023. Return to text
  15. Department for Education, ‘Israel-Hamas conflict: Advice for schools from ministers’, 19 October 2023; and ‘How we’re protecting Jewish students on university campuses’, 5 November 2023. Return to text
  16. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘Prime minister’s Holocaust Commission report’, 27 January 2015. Return to text
  17. House of Commons Library, ‘Holocaust Memorial Bill’, 23 June 2023. Return to text
  18. As above. Return to text
  19. As above. Return to text
  20. UK Parliament, ‘Holocaust Memorial Bill’, accessed 24 January 2024; and House of Commons Library, ‘Holocaust Memorial Bill’, 23 June 2023. Return to text
  21. UK Parliament, ‘Holocaust Memorial Bill’, accessed 24 January 2024. Return to text
  22. House of Commons Holocaust Memorial Bill Committee, ‘Holocaust Memorial Bill Committee hearings taking place this week’, 23 January 2024; ‘Holocaust Memorial Bill Committee: Publications’, accessed 26 January 2024; and BBC News, 'Holocaust survivors criticise plans for new Westminster memorial', 25 January 2024. Return to text