“The new recommendations show that the IHRA isn't just about talking and sharing best practices – but also about finding practical solutions to challenges in teaching and learning about the Holocaust,” Jennifer Ciardelli and Niels Weitkamp agree.
Looking back on the IHRA Plenary meetings that took place in Luxembourg City from 2-5 December, Ciardelli and Weitkamp point to the significance of the very palpable results. As core members of the project group behind the new Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust, they know that the publication is a great achievement for the now 34 Member Countries of the IHRA.
But they also recognize that the work is far from done:
"So many delegates contributed to the creation of the Recommendations, which makes them quite special and a great example of international cooperation,” Ciardelli and Weitkamp say. “But just as refreshing the guidelines could not have happened without so much support and involvement across the IHRA, distributing and implementing them can't be done without the involvement of all IHRA delegates.”
New Member and Liaison Countries
The delegates from Portugal are among those the two project leaders rely on. Up first on the Plenary’s order of business in Luxembourg was the decision to accept Portugal as a full Member Country of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. After a presentation by Head of Delegation, Ambassador Luiz Barreiros, the decision was made to accept Portugal as the 34th member of the IHRA.
Moments later, the Plenary heard from Ambassador Jovan Tegovski, Head of Delegation from the Republic of North Macedonia, and was able to welcome that nation as a Liaison Country. The IHRA now consists of 34 Member Countries, 1 Liaison Country, 7 Observer Countries, and 8 Permanent International Partners.
Staro Sajmište and Topovske Šupe
A central discussion of the Plenary session revolved around the latest developments concerning Staro Sajmište and Topovske Šupe, two former camp sites in Belgrade, Serbia. Assistant Minister Drača Muntean from the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information presented the draft law on the Memorial Center “Staro Sajmište,” which is currently under discussion. The IHRA Chair and Plenary applauded the positive developments in this field and the attention given to Staro Sajmište, a site visited by Ambassador Santer in September 2019. The IHRA hopes to see the draft law brought before Parliament in coming months to assure the protection of both Staro Sajmište and Topovske Šupe.
Agreement on Ministerial Declaration
The Plenary also agreed upon the final text for the 2020 Ministerial Declaration that will be at the center of a high-level event to be held in Brussels on 19 January. To be presented in the coming anniversary year, the Ministerial Declaration will serve to underline and renew the commitments made by all IHRA Member Countries in the 2000 Stockholm Declaration.
The perhaps most solemn moment of the Plenary Session came shortly after IHRA Chair Georges Santer had reconvened the Plenary for the second day and Honorary Chairman Yehuda Bauer was given the word.
In a poignant address on the reasons for the outbreak of the Second World War, Prof. Bauer aptly demonstrated the importance of the IHRA's mission. “Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem," Prof. Bauer said, pointing to the millions of lives lost in that war: "Antisemitism is a problem for all the societies in which it grows.”
Want more insight from the IHRA Plenary Session? Have a look at the newly released Summary Report.