Cambridge Workshop: Experts Identify Threats to Memorial Sites

“In fact, we should act immediately”, urged Insa Eschebach. “A lot is going very well, but there are many threats and challenges we have to address.” As the Director of Memorial Museum Ravensbrück, Dr. Eschebach is an expert on the protection of sites relating to the Holocaust and Roma genocide and other Nazi crimes, and on Tuesday she shared her concerns with colleagues at the workshop Safeguarding Sites: the IHRA Charter for Best Practice, which took place at the University of Cambridge. 

Jointly organized by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and DAAD Cambridge, the workshop brought together experts to discuss threats and challenges to memorial sites such as climate change, neglect, attacks and destruction, lack of protection or financial support, inappropriate use, digitization, visitor numbers, and more. Specifically, the participants discussed and critiqued a draft of the guidelines for protecting sites currently being written as part of a five-year IHRA project launched earlier this year.

The motivation for the project was reflected in the statement by Petra Rosenberg, Chair of Berlin-Brandenburg Federation of German Sinti and Roma and Head of the Memorial of Forced Labor Camp Berlin-Marzahn. Lack of institutional and financial support has proven to be the main challenge for the work to establish and preserve the Berlin-Marzahn Camp as a memorial site actively engaged in research and “learning at authentic places.” 

 “In times of increasing neo-Nazi attacks and acts of violence against minorities,” Ms. Rosenberg said, “it is necessary to secure the preservation of the memorial with institutional support and thus to make a contribution to coming to terms with the Nazi history, and for political-educational work.” 

Axel Drecoll, Head of the Brandenburg Memorials Foundation and the Memorial Site Sachsenhausen, agreed. “Memorial sites are modern museums with needs like other museums. The requirements for collection and provenance research, trained personnel and modern communication are the same,” Dr. Drecoll underlined.

The workshop was supported by the DAAD-University of Cambridge Research Hub for German Studies with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO). Presentations were also given by Dr. Gilly Carr (Project Chair of Safeguarding Sites), Dr. Jens-Christian Wagner (Head of Bergen-Belsen Memorial), Marei Drassdo (Chair of Leonberg), and Dr. Steve Cooke (Australian delegation of IHRA). Also in attendance were Dr. Heidemarie Uhl (Austrian Academy of Sciences), Sally Sealey (Deputy head of UK delegation of IHRA and Head of Secretariat of UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation), the IHRA Permanent Office Grants Manager, and Raphael Henkes (Holocaust heritage MPhil / PhD student, University of Cambridge). Following the workshop, a delegation from the Safeguarding Sites project team consisting of Chair Dr. Gilly Carr, Dr. Steven Cooke, Dr. Alicja Białecka, and Dr. Margaret Comer as well as Sally Sealey and Ophelia Leon (Chair of the International Committee of Memorial Museums) travelled to Alderney in the Channel Islands to explore sites and meet with representatives of the States of Alderney. 

To learn more about the project and its guidelines, please visit Safeguarding Sites: the IHRA Charter for Best Practice

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. 

Photo: Participants at the workshop Safeguarding Sites: the IHRA Charter for Best Practice. Credit: Cambridge Department of Archaeology