Experts Advise on IHRA Safeguarding Sites Project

Sites associated with the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma play a crucial role in educating current and future generations about the history and causes of the Holocaust, and helping them to reflect upon its consequences. However, these sites can face a wide variety of risks, from climate change and terrorist attacks to lack of funding leading to neglect and decay.

How can institutions and countries best safeguard sites of the Holocaust and genocide of the Roma? 

This is a question that the project “Safeguarding Sites: IHRA Charter for Best Practice is attempting to answer through the creation of heritage guidelines.

The project, launched in February 2019, aims to create guidelines for safeguarding authentic Holocaust sites - for adoption by all IHRA Member Countries - and to have the guidelines incorporated into national heritage legislation. Over the next five years, the IHRA project group will work with five sites to inform and develop these guidelines.  

On the 2nd of June, ahead of the first Plenary meeting of the Luxembourg chairmanship, a selection of international experts met in Mondorf-les-Bains to discuss the project.

The meeting was the first in a series that combined the IHRA core team with international experts from institutions involved with preservation of cultural heritage. Archaeology professors from the universities of Vienna and Staffordshire were present, as well as representatives from International Sites of Conscience, ICOMOS, and ICMEMO. These experts will work with the core team to inform and advise on elements of the project, from the choice of model to the selection of appropriate sites.

In the meeting, a cooler “heritage model” rather than an immediate-response “fire-fighting model” was adopted for the project, which will consider a broad range of types of risk. Sites that face immediate threats of destruction or inappropriate re-use may be included alongside well-established, well cared-for sites that, nonetheless, have faced a different kind of challenge (such as earthquakes or threats to site authenticity and integrity). This range will result in broad and thorough guidelines which can help all Holocaust and Roma genocide sites in future.

Members of the project core team are: Dr Gilly Carr (UK), Dr Alicja Bialecka (Poland), Dr Heidemarie Uhl (Austria), Dr Steven Cooke (Australia), and Zoltan Toth-Heinemann (Hungary). They will be joined by a research assistant, Margaret Comer, based at the University of Cambridge with Gilly Carr.

The IHRA unites governments and experts to strengthen, advance and promote Holocaust education, remembrance and research worldwide, and to uphold the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration.