Remembrance of the Holocaust often focuses on those who have suffered and perished in concentration camps, ghettos or on death marches. But the killing sites where mass shootings took place are still relatively unknown.The conference on killing sites “As Mass Murder Began: Identifying and Remembering the Killing Sites of Summer–Fall 1941” took place at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum (VGSJM) in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 22–23 March 2017.
The event was a follow-up conference to a gathering in Krakow (2014), entitled “Killing Sites. Research and Remembrance”, and was dedicated to the location of killing sites, their preservation and commemoration. A major part of the conference was in the form of workshops, with the aim of providing a forum for those active in the field of mass killing sites in the Baltic States, Belarus, Ukraine, and Romania to exchange views, share issues, problems, solutions, and best practices. This was the first international conference organized by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in Lithuania, (a Member Country of the IHRA since 2003). The two-day conference was attended by around 80 invited speakers, participants and guests from 18 countries, including IHRA experts, researchers, representatives of governmental institutions and NGOs from Belarus, Belgium,Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United States as well as Lithuania.
One of the objectives of the Vilnius conference was to follow-up on the conference on killing sites held in Krakow in 2014. This second conference showed the continued importance the IHRA places on efforts to maintain and strengthen the network of individuals, governmental organizations and NGOs working in the field. Conference participants not only exchanged contacts and ideas for possible further cooperation, but also learned about the scope of the work carried out by IHRA experts and the IHRA’s role in encouraging and supporting this work. This is especially important for experts and NGOs from countries which are not IHRA Member Countries, such as Belarus and Ukraine.
The conference was divided into four sections, in addition to site visits:
1. Lectures by keynote speakers
2. Panel presentations by experts
4. Marketplace of projects and ideas
5. Site visits