Guided by the theme “working and remembering in a digital context,” the 2020 Leipzig Plenary brought together over 250 delegates from the IHRA’s 34 Member, 1 Liaison and 7 Observer Countries, as well as its 8 Permanent International Partners (PIPs) to discuss the latest developments in the field of Holocaust education, remembrance and research. Held entirely online over the course of three weeks, the meetings officially concluded yesterday.
Encouraging cooperation through challenging times
The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects colored much of the discussions in the Working Groups and Committees, where experts discussed innovative solutions to unprecedented challenges. The Chair of the Museums and Memorials Working Group provided the IHRA Plenary with a thorough report on what type of support such institutions would require, as many were facing the threat of permanent closure without it. The pandemic has affected institutions and sites of all sizes, essential parts of the culture of memory and of Holocaust remembrance, making a coordinated response to support them crucial.
The IHRA’s experts in the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial delved deep into the concerning increase in antisemitic conspiratorial thinking. “We need to understand the influence of QAnon and other conspiracies in order to counter the various forms of antisemitism which are unfortunately growing today,” said Rob Williams, Chair of the committee.
IHRA Chair Ambassador Michaela Küchler also encouraged delegates to explore the opportunities of the digital realm. An impulse lecture on representations of the Holocaust and the Second World War in digital games by Dr Nico Nolden from the University of Hannover provided an overview of the misuse of this history along with unique insight into new ways of engaging younger generations.
The efforts of the IHRA’s Global Task Force Against Holocaust Distortion, which presented an outline of its forthcoming recommendations to the Plenary, are timely especially given the rise in Holocaust distortion at demonstrations against social distancing measures, and will provide much-needed guidance on this phenomenon. "It is essential to increase awareness about Holocaust distortion among policy- and decision-makers," said Karina Häuslmeier, the Head of the German Delegation. The result of a year of collaboration among IHRA experts, the recommendations identify how policymakers can recognize, prevent and counter distortion.
Moving forward with educational and awareness-raising tools
The IHRA Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust have been translated into 8 languages, with 14 more in progress and expected to be available soon.
The recently adopted working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination, as well as its implementation and dissemination were discussed at the Committee on the Genocide of the Roma as were plans to develop further materials for teaching and learning about this genocide.
Looking ahead to the IHRA's future Presidencies
The IHRA Plenary was reminded that Greece will assume the Presidency of the IHRA in 2021, followed by Sweden in 2022, and Croatia in 2023. Sweden also presented their plans for a high-level forum in Malmo next year.
Special features and events
Welcome addresses in advance of the Plenary Session were given by German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas, the Minister President of Saxony Michael Kretschmer, and the Lord Mayor of Leipzig Burkhard Jung. They underlined the importance of the IHRA’s work and of our responsibility to continually engage with this difficult history.
In addition to the screening of an online production by Theaterverin K on the Family Kroch from Leipzig, the Plenary meetings also featured an exclusive screening of Voices for a Better World: The Legacy of Testimony, a film by the Association of Jewish Refugees.
Although the Plenary was held entirely online, the spirit of Leipzig was still present. Many leaders from Leipzig cultural institutions, as well as government officials, shared a warm welcome to delegates from various landmarks in the city. These can all be viewed on the Presidency website.
Learn more here about the deliberations of the first two weeks of the Leipzig plenary meetings.