Founder's Parents

The Centre was the brainchild of James and Stephen Smith along with their mother Marina who in 1991 visited Yad Vashem- Israel’s national Holocaust museum. This conscientious, thoughtful and considered Christian family were stunned and challenged by the information gathered during their journey. James and Stephen believed that their education of the Holocaust at school and university had been lacking as there had never been an opportunity to consider what the Holocaust might mean for them as individuals.The trip in 1991 changed the lives of the family as they came back to the UK and knew that the Holocaust had to be taught, discussed and understood by all. They were especially keen to see this done correctly for students learning about the Holocaust at school.

After many years of dedicated fund raising and incredibly hard work, affectionately known as Beth Shalom (the House of Peace) - the National Holocaust Centre and Museum was born. What once was the Smith family home is now the only national museum in the UK dedicated to teaching and learning the lessons from the Holocaust. From humble backgrounds, this inspirational place holds two permanent exhibitions, a memorial and reflective space, education and teaching space, beautiful landscaped memorial gardens and viewing galleries to learn about the Holocaust. We are very proud to host the only museum exhibition dedicated to teaching younger children about the Holocaust.

Our statement of purpose is to provide a permanent memorial to the victims of the Holocaust; offer an understanding of the causes and events of the Holocaust through a range of age-appropriate exhibitions and survivor testimonies and to present programmes of learning, based on the Holocaust, that encourage personal responsibility and the promotion of fairness and justice but also challenge learners to take positive action.

The Centre is also grateful to its supporters, without whom we would not exist.  The special relationship with the Pears family through Sir Trevor Pears CMG and the Pears Foundation, has played a particularly central role for many years.  The Foundation continues to be a lead supporter, providing substantial time and input from its professional team as well as core support. 

Aegis Trust

In July 2000,  in response to the Kosovo crisis and the need to focus efforts on the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity James and Stepehn Smith established the Aegis Trust. Aegis coordinates the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Genocide Prevention in Westminster and is responsible for the Kigali Memorial Centre in Rwanda. It is also at the forefront of the international campaign to end the genocidal crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Aegis commemorates the victims of genocide, provides education about the results of divisive ideas, researches and campaigns about situations of potential genocide, and works to support survivors in need. For further information about the Aegis Trust click here.

In 2003, Rwanda's Minister of Culture and the Mayor of Kigali, Rwanda's capital, visited the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. The Mayor asked the Aegis Trust to create the Kigali Memorial Centre, then an empty shell, at a site where 250,000 victims of Rwanda's 1994 genocide lay buried. The Kigali Memorial Centre opened on 7 April 2004, the tenth anniversary of the start of the genocide. Modeled on the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, it is a place of remembrance for survivors, learning for young people, and a warning for world leaders. Visitors include a steady stream of international figures, among them George W Bush, Tony Blair, Ban Ki Moon and Bill Clinton.