Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 17:46 UK

Nazis' disabled victims honoured

Alison Lapper at the Holocaust Centre
Ms Lapper said she hoped the day had opened people's hearts and minds

The UK's first memorial to the one million disabled people who were persecuted, sterilised or killed by Nazi Germany has been unveiled.

Survivors, celebrities and disability groups were at the event, where a rose and plaque were dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust's disabled victims.

Plans for a permanent sculpture were also revealed at the Holocaust Centre in Laxton, Nottinghamshire.

Artist Alison Lapper said it had been "an amazing day".

Ms Lapper, who was the model for Marc Quinn's statue that occupied Trafalgar Square's fourth plinth, added: "It is so important that these people have finally been put on the map.

"It has been an excellent day, I hope it has opened people's hearts and minds."

The centre's Stephen Smith said there had been "little recognition" of the persecution the disabled suffered.

Up to 270,000 disabled people died in the Holocaust. Six major killing centres for the disabled were set up around Germany.

'Largely untold'

Mr Smith said: "While discrimination against those with disability is outlawed in our society, we must work together to counter the prejudice that remains.

Kim Tserkezie
CBBC star Kim Tserkezie was among those attending the event

"Hitler's propaganda minister suffered from polio, and yet he still drove a media machine that contributed to the persecution of a million deaf and disabled people."

One of the few blind Jewish children to survive the war, Hans Cohn - now 85 - was at the dedication.

He avoided the Holocaust by escaping to the UK.

He said: "The disabled suffered doubly under the Nazi regime if they were Jewish."

Actress Kim Tserkezie, an actress in CBBC's Balamory, said she had been "compelled" to attend because disabled people's experiences of the Holocaust "have gone largely untold".

She said: "We owe it to all those people who were persecuted, forcibly sterilised or murdered to remember them and pay tribute to them.

"We must not forget their experiences, which are not only part of our past, but are important in helping us understand the prejudices and discrimination we as disabled people experience today."

The permanent sculpture is to be created by the Pioneers Young Disabled People's Forum from Nottinghamshire.


SEE ALSO
Holocaust memorial journey ends
08 May 08 |  Europe
In pictures: Holocaust remembrance
01 May 08 |  In Pictures

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