Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon and his wife, Jan, are donating $1 million to construction of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

The Cannons are the first non-Jews to become founders - contributors of $1 million - of the museum, which is being built by the U.S. Holocaust Council on land donated by the federal government.The U.S. Holocaust Council, whose members are appointed by the president, was established as a federal agency in 1980 under the Department of the Interior. Cannon is a member of its national campaign board, which serves under the council and is charged with raising $147 million needed to build the memorial. So far, the board has raised $100 million.

The Cannons declined to comment on their contribution to the memorial, which they agreed early this fall to make. They were honored for their contribution in Washington on Oct. 9.

"I believe that this is a very beautiful and generous act and on behalf of the Jewish community in Utah I want to express my deepest appreciation," said Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger of the Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City.

"We hope that the museum and foundation will help educate us all to the dangers of every form of hatred between nations and peoples. Mr. Cannon's gift has helped further that necessary education."

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial is being built on 14th Street, next to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving. It is dedicated to preserving the memory of the estimated 6 million European Jews killed by Nazis before and during World War II. The multi-story memorial is scheduled to open in spring 1993, which will be the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

The memorial includes two special exhibition galleries, archives for research and study, and a meditation room. The council already has collected 16,000 artifacts to display there, including a train car used to transport Jews to concentration camps and prison camp uniforms from Auschwitz and Majdanek, Germany.

"What they want to do is have such thoroughly researched and absolutely authentic documents and records so that centuries from now there will be no question about it (the holocaust) having happened," said Mary Kay Lazarus, Geneva Steel spokeswoman.

The Cannons asked the U.S. Holocaust Council not to release information about the donation to the general media; however, the Cannons agreed to have an article about the contribution included in the current issue of the Holocaust Memorial newsletter.

"Joe feels very passionate about certain things, and especially about human rights and freedom," Lazarus said. "They (the Cannons) felt that (being) the first non-Jewish people to become founders was a meaningful way to say there are non-Jewish people who care a lot (about the Holocaust)."

Last April, Geneva Steel sponsored the Anne Frank Exhibit at the Salt Lake City-County Building. Proceeds from the last night of the exhibit were dedicated to the Holocaust Museum.