On 29 November, 2018, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) successfully concluded its second bi-annual Plenary Meeting under the Italian Chairmanship in the beautiful Castello Estense in Ferrara where more than 200 experts and governmental representatives met to discuss the Holocaust as a contemporary political issue. The meetings were presided over by IHRA Chair, Ambassador Sandro De Bernardin.
Addressing the Heads of Delegation of IHRA’s 32 Member Countries, IHRA Honorary Chairman, Professor Yehuda Bauer, stressed “the central issue we are facing today is not Holocaust denial, but Holocaust distortion. We have to remember that we have a tremendous responsibility to safeguard the historical record of the Holocaust – a responsibility to ourselves, to our future, to our children, and to our grandchildren.”
Head of the Hungarian Delegation, Szabolcs Takács, provided an update on the House of Fates museum confirmed that the opening of the museum had been postponed and stated that when a draft concept for the House of Fates exists it would be discussed with the IHRA. The Hungarian Delegation signaled that a significant rise in the financial support to the Pava Street Museum is currently being discussed.
The IHRA Plenary was pleased to welcome Bulgaria as a new IHRA Member Country and to approve Portugal’s application to progress its membership status to become a Liaison Country. The European Union was also welcomed as a Permanent International Partner organization and EU Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, read a letter on behalf of Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, which stated “At a time when antisemitism is on the rise, and during which questions are mounting as to the relevance of the Holocaust for Europe today, the IHRA’s work is more necessary than ever.”
The Plenary Meetings focused, among other topics, on combatting antisemitism with a presentation by Vibeke Moe (Norwegian Holocaust Centre) of the results of a survey outlining the attitudes to Jews and Muslims in Norway and a moderated discussion on combatting antisemitism with the participation of IHRA delegates Karen Pollock (Holocaust Educational Trust), Anna Zielinska (OSCE/ODIHR), Mark Weitzman (Simon Wiesenthal Centre) and Klaus Müller (USHMM).
IHRA delegates also had the opportunity to visit the Fossoli concentration camp. An estimated 5000 internees, including novelist Primo Levi, passed through Fossoli before being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Buchenwald and other concentration and extermination camps. Museum director and IHRA delegate, Simonetta della Setta, who was instrumental in organizing the plenary meetings, offered delegates a guided visit of the National Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah.
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.