The Foundation Stones project invites everyone to paint a commemorative stone that will become part of the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London when it opens. Created by Big Ideas on behalf of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, the project is inspired by the Jewish custom of leaving small stones when visiting graves. Foundation Stones remember the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered in the Holocaust and all other victims of Nazi persecution. People can also dedicate their stones to the victims of subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
Every painted stone represents a commitment from an individual to remember the past and to build a future free from all forms of hatred. From the 98-year-old woman remembering her mother murdered in Auschwitz to a young school child in Wales writing ‘Proud to be Gypsy’ on his stone, each stone holds a powerful individual story or message of tolerance.
The creative vision is thousands of stones, from every corner in the United Kingdom, coming together to become part of our national memorial. As people struggle with the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is a tribute to the powerful idea behind Foundation Stones that it has cut through and resonated with so many people. It has brought people together to share their stories and to think about the kind of future we want to build.
Given the exceptionally sensitive topic, it was vital to find an appropriate and meaningful form of expression. Big Ideas came up with the concept of Foundation Stones as an innovative way for individuals to make a personal contribution to the memorial before it opens. It is based on the Jewish custom of laying stones on graves and headstones, the idea being that memory, like a stone, is permanent. It also has the added spiritual significance that most of those murdered in the Holocaust were given no burial, so their families have no grave to visit, something that resonates deeply with the Chief Rabbi.
“The incorporation of these stones from around the country, into the new UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre will be a powerful and deeply symbolic act.”
Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Great Britain and the Commonwealth
The phrase ‘Foundation Stones’ also links to the foundations of our new national memorial and learning centre and to the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation itself. The deep cultural significance of stones is truly inclusive and has absorbed new meanings. For example, Rwandan genocide survivors in Britain have spoken about how stones have turned from weapons to objects of memory.
“Stones were one of the weapons that were killing our loved ones but now it’s going to be another object that keeps their memory.”
Survivor of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda
This Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2022), schools across the country will be taking part in the #BigStonePaint for #HMD2022. Join schools and community groups up and down the country in making a personal contribution to the new UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre. Every stone painted is a promise to remember the past and build a future free from hate. If you are interested in taking part, please sign up via Big Ideas’ website.