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Conference: Refugee Policies


From 16-17 February 2017 the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, in cooperation with the Holy See, will hold a conference for public policy-makers from Europe, North America and the Middle East, media representatives and representatives of NGOs and civil society organizations at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome focusing on refugee policies from 1933 to the present day.

Image: Pope Francis greets migrants and refugees at the Moria refugee camp. Image: copyright “Foto L’Osservatore Romano”.

About the Conference - Programme - Speakers - Media

About the Conference


Pope Francis has made compassion and generosity to refugees a hallmark of his papacy, referring to Europe’s migrant crisis as “the greatest humanitarian crisis, after the Second World War.”

At a time when the current situation of refugees in Europe and the Middle East continues to dominate the news and the political arena, this conference brings together experts in Holocaust history and contemporary policy-makers to reflect on the past with a view to concretely informing positive, ethically responsible, and rational policy-making today. The outcome of the conference will be a concrete set of recommendations for international policy-makers.

Speakers include Mons. Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Ms. Kristina Touzenis, Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organization for Migration, and Mr. Stefan Lehne, Carnegie Foundation, Brussels. The draft programme and further information on speakers is available below.

The IHRA Chair, Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, said:  “We are honoured to be holding this conference with the Holy See and our cooperation should send a strong signal to the international community that we have both a moral and a historical responsibility to address the present-day situation facing refugees. The IHRA knows all too well the consequences of the international community failing to act. The current refugee situation is the litmus test for international solidarity.”

Dr Veerle Vanden Daelen, part of the team organizing the conference, said: “When considering what we, as experts and educators on Holocaust history, could do to take action in the current refugee situation, we realised our strength lies in our expertise. Policy-makers and people working on the ground with refugees have little to no time to read anthologies on the refugee policies of the 1930s, but we can make our knowledge on successful and failed refugee policies from the past visible and accessible to organizations and governments dealing with this issue today.”                    

The conference “Refugee Policies from 1933 until Today:  Challenges and Responsibilities” is organized by Advisor to the IHRA, Professor Steven Katz, Co-Head of the Austrian Delegation to the IHRA, Ambassador Michael Baier, Dr Robert Williams, Deputy Director of International Affairs at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (US Delegation to the IHRA) and Dr Veerle Vanden Daelen, adjunct general director and curator of Kazerne Dossin (Belgian Delegation to the IHRA).

Due to limited capacity, attendance at the conference is by invitation only. If you represent an NGO or civil society organization working on refugee issues, please send a request to attend with your name, position and organization name to eakarsu[at] holocaustremembrance [dott] com (subject: Refugee%20Policies%20from%201933%20until%20today) by no later than 15 January 2017. Your attendance is not assured until you have received a confirmation email from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.


16 February 2017
Registration (17:00-17:45)

Opening Remarks and Keynote (18:00-20:00)
Opening Remarks: Ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu, Chair of the IHRA
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with the States, Holy See
Introduction: Prof. Steven T. Katz, Advisor to the IHRA and Alvin J. and Shirley Slater Chair in Jewish Studies, Boston University
Keynote Speech: Speaker TBD

17 February 2017
Registration – from 08:00

Panel 1: From the 1930s to 1945 (08:30-10:30)

This panel will explore the policies formulated in leading political circles in reaction to the refugee crisis of the 1930s, with the rise to power of Hitler and through the war years. Panelists will discuss the main actors, their actions, and to what degree they were successful.

Moderator: Father Norbert Hofmann S.D.B., Holy See
(a) US and European responses – Dr. Susanne Heim, Institute of Contemporary History, Munich– Berlin
(b) The Holy See – Dr. Johan Ickx, Holy See
(c) NGOs and International Organizations – Prof. Dr. Avinoam Patt, University of Hartford

Panel 2: Developments since 1945 (10:45-12:15)

The situation created by WWII resulted in a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions. Governments, intergovernmental organizations, religious organizations, and NGOs all attempted to respond. This panel examines what these actors did and why, evaluates their successes and shortcomings, and considers what lessons can be learned to help deal with the current refugee crisis.

Moderator: Dr. Veerle Vanden Daelen, Deputy General Director and Curator, Kazerne Dossin: Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights

(a) International Organizations – Prof. Dan Plesch, SOAS, University of London
(b) European Response – Dr. Juliane Wetzel, Centre for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University Berlin
(c) American Responses – Prof. Carl J. Bon Tempo, State University of NY at Albany

Panel 3: The Present Situation (13:15-15:00)

The speakers in this session will evaluate the present situation and the challenges we face today. What are the responses of Europe and the EU, international and non-governmental organizations, and religious organizations? What are the perspectives of refugees themselves? The conversations from this panel will support the policy proposals put forward in the final panel.

Moderator: Ambassador Dr. Thomas Michael Baier, Republic of Austria

(a) EU/Europe – Mr. Stefan Lehne, Carnegie Foundation, Brussels
(b) International Organizations and NGOs – Ms. Kristina Touzenis, Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organization for Migration
(c) The Holy See – Msgr Giovanni Pietro dal Toso, Holy See
(d) Refugee perspectives – Dr. Mukesh Kapila, CBE, Refugee Crisis Group, University of Manchester

Panel 4: The Current Challenge: Where Do We Go From Here? (15:30-16:30)

This panel intends to promote an open conversation about new initiatives and responses to the current refugee situation. Rapporteurs will present key take-aways from the previous three panels. With input from the audience, it is hoped that this panel will result in suggestions for new, pragmatic policies that can be adopted by governmental and nongovernmental institutions.

(a) Dr. Wolf Kaiser, former Director of Education at the House of the Wannsee Conference
(b) Dr. Cecilie Stokholm Banke, Senior Researcher for Foreign Policy, Danish Institute of International Studies
(c) Dr. Robert J. Williams, Deputy Director, International Affairs, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Closing remarks (16:30-17:00)

Mr. Stephane Jaquemet, Regional Representative for Southern Europe, UNHCR, Rome

Professor Michael O'Flaherty, Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights


Prof. Carl J. Bon Tempo, State University of NY at Albany, teaches courses in 20th century American political history, public policy history, immigration history, and the history of American foreign policy. Bon Tempo's current research focuses on human rights politics and policies in the U.S. from the 1970s to the present. He is the author of Americans at the Gate: The United States and Refugees during the Cold War (Princeton University Press, 2008), which explores how and why the U.S. admitted over four million refugees between 1945 and 2000.

Dr. Susanne Heim, Institute of Contemporary History, Munich–Berlin,  is a German political scientist and historian of National Socialism, the Holocaust and international refugee policy. Since 2005 she has been project coordinator  of the editorial project Judenverfolgung 1933 - 1945. Her publications include Architects of Annihilation, with Goetz Aly (2003) and Fluchtpunkt Karibik. Juedische Emigranten in der Dominikanischen Republik, with Hans-Ulrich Dillmann (2009). 

Dr. Johan Ickx, Holy See, studied religious sciences, theology and philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven and got his doctorate in church history at the Pontificia Università Gregoriana. He worked as academic assistant of the Archivum Historiae Pontificiae, official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and official and archivist of the Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary. Currently he is head of the Historical Archive, Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State. He published on several subjects related to the history of the Church in the Middle Ages and in the 19th-20th centuries.

Mr. Stephane Jaquemet was appointed Regional Representative for Southern Europe of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as of April 2016. Mr. Jaquemet has been working with UNHCR for 24 years, starting in 1992 in Croatia as Head of Operations. He continued his career in Togo serving as Head of Emergency Operations and then as Senior Protection Officer. From 1997 to 2002, he held a number of senior positions in the Division of International Protection at UNHCR Headquarters in Geneva. In 2002, Mr. Jaquemet moved to Indonesia and took the position of Deputy Regional
Representative. In 2005, he was appointed as Representative and successfully served as such in Lebanon, Nepal, Burkina Faso and Colombia. Mr. Jaquemet is a Swiss national and studied law at Lausanne University and was called to the Swiss Bar in 1981. He then successfully completed his master's degree in criminology at the University of Paris.

Dr. Wolf Kaiser, former Director of Education at the House of the Wannsee Conference, worked as a high school teacher and for 24 years as a historian and educator at the Memorial and Educational Site House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin. He has been a member of the German delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance since 2001.

Dr. Mukesh Kapila, CBE, Refugee Crisis Group, University of Manchester, is Professor of Global Health and Humanitarian Affairs. He is also Chair of Nonviolent Peaceforce, Chair of Manchester Global Foundation, Adjunct Professor at the International Centre for Humanitarian Affairs Nairobi, Associate Fellow of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Special Representative of the Aegis Trust for the prevention of crimes against humanity, and Special Adviser to Syria Relief. He was Special Adviser to the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016. His memoir "Against a Tide of Evil", published in 2013, was nominated for the Best Nonfiction Book of that year. He is the curator of a popular blog series Flesh and Blood.

Professor Steven Katz holds the Slater Chair in Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Boston University and is the former Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in 1972.  He is the Advisor to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a member and former co-chair of the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Chair of the Holocaust Commission of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.  Steven Katz has published numerous works on the Holocaust and Jewish philosophy and over 120 articles in the fields of Jewish Studies, Holocaust studies, philosophy of religion, and comparative mysticism and has lectured at universities around the world including India, China, and recently Iran. 

Mr. Stefan Lehne, is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe in Brussels, where he researches the post–Lisbon Treaty development of the European Union’s foreign policy with a specific focus on relations between the EU and member states. From 2009–2011, Lehne served as director general for political affairs at the Austrian Ministry for European and International Affairs. Lehne’s work on issues of European foreign and security policy has been widely published in a number of academic journals, including Integration, the Austrian Journal of Political Science, and Europa Archiv. In addition, he has authored a number of monographs on the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Michael O’Flaherty is FRA’s current Director. Previously, he was Professor of Human Rights Law and Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He has also been the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. In addition, he has held a number of senior UN posts in the field, supported UN headquarters in various human rights programmes, been a Vice-Chairperson of the UN Human Rights Committee and has sat on the advisory boards of numerous human rights groups and journals internationally. His recent publications include volumes on the law and practice of human rights field operations, the professionalization of human rights field work and human rights diplomacy.

Prof. Dr. Avinoam Patt is the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford, where he is also director of the Museum of Jewish Civilization.  His first book, Finding Home and Homeland: Jewish Youth and Zionism in the Aftermath of the Holocaust (published by Wayne State University Press, May 2009), examines the appeal of Zionism for young survivors in Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust and their role in the creation of the state of Israel.  He is also the co-editor (with Michael Berkowitz) of a collected volume on Jewish Displaced Persons, titled We are Here: New Approaches to the Study of Jewish Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany (Wayne State University Press, February 2010). 

Msgr Giovanni Pietro dal Toso, Holy See, studied classical studies and later attended the major seminary of Bressanone/Brixen, completing his studies in philosophy and theology at the Higher Institute of Philosophy and Theology of Brixen, earning the title Magister Theologiae at the faculty of theology at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, and, in December 1997, obtaining his Doctorate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Msgr. Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso was the Secretary of the Pontifical Council “Cor unum” following his appointment by Pope Benedict XVI on 22 June 2010 until 31 December 2016. He is now Delegated Secretary in the newly created Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.

Dr. Dan Plesch, is the Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London. His publications include, Human Rights After Hitler, America, Hitler and the UN and with Prof Thomas G. Weiss, Wartime History and the Future UN. Previously, he was the founding Director in Washington DC of the British American Security Information Council and Senior Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

Dr. Cecilie Stokholm Banke, Senior Researcher for Foreign Policy, Danish Institute of International Studies, specializes in topics including European history and society, including nationalism and multiculturalism, political and social change, the politics of memory in Europe since 1945 and refugee policy in Europe before and during the Second World War. Dr Stokholm Banke is Head of the Danish Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Ms. Kristina Touzenis, Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organization for Migration, is responsible for the activities related to international and regional law issues. She has an LLB and LLM from the University of Copenhagen. She worked in Italy for 9 years before joining IOM Geneva, including 5 years for IOM Rome, and has taught both post and undergraduates at the Universities of Trieste and Pisa. Her research focuses on the human rights of women and children and she has published on both international human rights and international humanitarian law issues. She is currently researching issues related to criminal law and human rights.

Dr. Veerle Vanden Daelen is Deputy General Director, Curator and Head Collections & Research at Kazerne Dossin and holds a PhD in History from the University of Antwerp. Her dissertation examined the return and reconstruction of Jewish life in Antwerp after the Second World War (1944-1960). She has held fellowships at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies (University of Michigan) and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies (University of Pennsylvania). In addition to numerous articles, she has authored two books, Vrouwbeelden in het Vlaams Blok (Ghent, 2002) and Laten we hun lied verder zingen. De heropbouw van de joodse gemeenschap in Antwerpen na de Tweede Wereldoorlog (1944-1960) (Amsterdam, 2008). She has been a member of the Belgian Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance since 2012.

Dr. Juliane Wetzel, Centre for Research on Antisemitism, Technical University, Berlin, researches on topics including displaced persons in Germany and  the emigration of the Jews during the Nazi era. She is a member of the Expert Board on Antisemitism of the German Bundestag and is a member of the German Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. She received her PhD from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich.

Dr. Robert J. Williams, Deputy Director, International Affairs, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, previously served as director of special research programs in the Museum's academic center.  He is a member of the United States Delegation to the  the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, where he chairs the committee on Archival Access, is US delegate to the Academic Working Group, and will soon chair the Committee on Holocaust Denial and Antisemitism.  His doctoral research focused on German political culture, US foreign Relations, Soviet foreign policy, and contemporary antisemitism, and he is completing a book on the role played by the media in development of political culture in East and West Germany.   


All journalists and media organizations wishing to attend the conference may apply for accreditation and may request TEMPORARY accreditation through the online form available on the Accreditation Section of Holy See Press Office website:

Journalists and media organizations regularly accredited at the Holy See Press Office may send their request through the usual channels. All requests must be sent no less than 48 hours before the event.

International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Media Contact: Laura Robertson
lrobertson[at] holocaustremembrance [dott] com

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Press Releases

"The Holy See and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance reflect on the past to inform future refugee policy" 4 January 2016