"Remembrance has no end," Ambassador Michaela Küchler said last night during the official handover ceremony at the House of Representatives in Berlin, as Germany assumed the IHRA Presidency for 2020.
"We will preserve the memory of the victims and survivors forever. We will do everything we can to ensure that the legacy of the murdered men, women, and children remains inscribed in the memory of humanity."
Ambassador Küchler will head the German Presidency, bringing with her extensive international experience from the German foreign service and from her role as Special Representative for Relations with Jewish Organisations, Antisemitism, Antigypsyism, Holocaust Remembrance. The evening was moderated by Karina Häuslmeier, who has taken over as Head of the German Delegation to the IHRA and Special Representative.
Speakers at the ceremony included Ralf Wieland, President of the House of Representatives in Berlin, and Michael Roth, German Minister of State for Europe. The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Bundestag, the Jewish community, the Roma and Sinti community, civil society activists as well as members of the diplomatic corps.
Global Task Force
Preparations are already underway for the biannual IHRA Plenary meetings that will take place in 2020. The first Plenary will meet in Berlin from 29 June to 2 July while the second session will take place in Leipzig from 30 November to 3 December.
At the top of the agenda of the German Presidency is the Global Task Force to counter Holocaust denial and distortion that was first announced by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on 26 January. The task force will be comprised of a network of experts who will work to develop strategies to combat Holocaust denial, distortion, and trivialization.
“It is obvious that this is a significant problem and one we will take even more seriously,” Ambassador Küchler said at a press briefing at the German Foreign Ministry on Thursday, pointing out that memorial sites and online forums are especially plagued by Holocaust distortion.
Continuing the work of previous IHRA Presidencies, the German Presidency will also throw its efforts behind the resources intended to further the IHRA's core mission in the areas of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. This includes national adoptions by Member Countries of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and the Working Definition of Holocaust Distortion and Denial as well as the promotion and widespread use of the Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust.
The new IHRA Chair also stated her intention of furthering the development of a Working Definition of Antigypsyism, thereby pursuing the organization's goal of countering the influence of hate speech, racism, and discrimination.
Annual report published
Evidently, the beginning of the German Presidency also marks the end of the Luxembourg Presidency.
Under the leadership of Ambassador Georges Santer, the past year has been highly productive for the IHRA. Two new Member Countries and one Liaison Country have been accepted to the organization, and an IHRA project found its final form in the Recommendations for Learning and Teaching about the Holocaust.
Most recently, the Luxembourg Presidency secured the unanimous adoption by 35 countries of the IHRA 2020 Ministerial Declaration. Underlining and broadening the commitments of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration, this new document both marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps and lays out the path for the future work of the IHRA.
In his final speech as IHRA Chair, Ambassador Santer declared it the responsibility of all members of society to protect minorities. "When Jews, Sinti and Roma, Muslims and others can no longer walk through the streets of European countries without fear," Ambassador Santer said, "this is not only a problem for those affected."
"It is an attack on the individual freedom of each and every one of us."
Follow the IHRA on Facebook and Twitter for more news about the German Presidency. Read more about the 19 January Ministerial Meeting in Brussels and many more events that took place during the Luxembourg Presidency in the new 2019 Annual Report.