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Safeguarding Sites

An in-depth look at what it means to safeguard sites and how you can take part.

Protecting history for the future

Sites contain the stories that link us to a history we should never forget. By identifying and mitigating the risks to sites, we can ensure the facts of the Holocaust are neither destroyed nor distorted, and that the legacy of victims and survivors lives on.

Why is it important to safeguard Holocaust-related sites?

Sites are the key to remembrance; they hold the historical record of the Holocaust and act as places of commemoration and education. These sites are crime scenes where even today, archeologists are able to reveal crimes against humanity and evidence of genocide, providing us with a greater understanding of the Holocaust. Sites help us to uncover individual stories and share them with a wide audience. With fewer survivors to look to for testimony, we rely heavily on sites to act as a living memory of the Holocaust.

The IHRA’s Member Countries share a commitment to “safeguard the historical record of the Holocaust, the genocide of the Roma, and the persecution of other victims by Nazi Germany and those fascist and extreme nationalist partners and other collaborators who participated in these crimes.” Safeguarding authentic sites of the Holocaust is an important step in fulfilling this commitment.

Safeguarding in action

Learn more about the sites IHRA experts have helped protect.

Learn about risks to sites and their solutions

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IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites

Working Definitions & Charters
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IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites

Learn about the risks facing Holocaust-related sites and what you can do to mitigate them.

What does it mean to safeguard sites?

The challenges

All authentic sites of the Holocaust still standing are now almost 80 years old or older. This means problems of natural decay caused by damp, insects, and vermin are a real threat. Many sites were made predominantly of wood and were not constructed to last for decades.

Other sites face deliberate destruction or damage through vandalism, extremist action, or even warfare.  

The IHRA’s Safeguarding Sites Project has identified 16 common threats to sites.

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IHRA Project: Safeguarding Sites

Learn about the team of experts developing a heritage charter for Holocaust-related sites.

The principles

Safeguarding sites means:  

  • Fostering a responsible record of history.  
  • Respecting the dignity of victims. This is especially true for burial sites.  
  • Bringing people and institutions from different countries and cultures together to learn from the sites and from each other.   
  • Using sites for appropriate purposes and without creating a hierarchy of victim groups. 
  • Identifying, marking, documenting, and managing risks to sites’ significance. 
  • Taking the diversity of sites into account. After all, not all sites were death camps or concentration camps. 
  • Respecting the stories sites tell and the significant role they play in the protection of human rights and in democratic life.  
  • Protecting the facts of the Holocaust for the purpose of education, remembrance, and research.  
  • Ensuring that sites are not used to distort or falsify the history of the Holocaust for political motivation. This means also naming victim groups and perpetrators at each site. 
Our responsibility

We all have a moral and civic duty to safeguard sites for the future of Holocaust remembrance and education, and the future of our democratic societies. 

Safeguarding sites of the Holocaust requires consistent effort and attention. It is the responsibility of States to assume ownership of their history.   

IHRA Member Countries are committed to safeguarding sites under the Stockholm Declaration, 2007 Prague Resolution, and 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration.  

All stakeholder groups for each site should be identified and involved in decision making. Local stakeholders might include museums, memorials, cultural heritage organizations, and activists and civil society members. It is the responsibility of all groups to ensure that sites are protected, appropriately used and ensure respectful acknowledgement of their history, especially in cases where sites have been repurposed.  

What you can do

How to get involved if you are a...

Policymaker
  • Promote Safeguarding practices like those outlined in the IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites
  • Expand current cultural heritage legislation 
  • Encourage the provision of legal safeguards for sites  
  • Support local stakeholders in their work
Local stakeholder

These include museums, memorials, cultural heritage organizations, and activists.

Meaningful campaigns and productive conversations that hold governments accountable are most effective when these groups work together.

International stakeholder

Advocate for sites as places of open dialogue that help protect human rights and democratic life. 

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