In Memoriam: Ambassador Tom Vraalsen

Ambassador Tom Vraalsen, IHRA Chair during the Norwegian Presidency 2009-2010, passed away on 13 September 2021 at the age of 85.

Educated at Aarhus University in Denmark, Tom Vraalsen joined the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in 1960. He was appointed Minister of International Development and of Nordic Cooperation from 1989 to 1990 and went on to serve as Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Norway to the United Nations before taking up postings as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the United States, and Finland, and as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for Sudan.

“It is with great sadness that we have learned about the passing of Tom Vraalsen,” IHRA Secretary General Dr. Kathrin Meyer says. “Tom was truly dedicated to our work. He worked harder than anyone to further the IHRA’s mission, and as a former minister and widely experienced diplomat he was extraordinarily committed to the professionalization of the IHRA.”

It was under Tom Vraalsen’s leadership that Heads of Delegation began having frequent meetings, that reporting from Working Groups and Committees was streamlined, and that the first IHRA Grant Strategy as well as the Committee on Holocaust Denial and Antisemitism were established.

“Equally important, Tom strongly encouraged Heads of Delegation to stay in close contact with their experts and to pay close attention to their advice. In his own work, he led by example and often consulted with Working Groups and experts before making important decisions,” Dr. Meyer says.

“Tom also had his eye on future generations, and he strongly advocated for more involvement by younger scholars and educators in the work of the IHRA, and sponsored a conference where young Nordic scholars were invited to present their work.

“Tom’s tireless work and travels in the service of the International Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (now the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) helped establish the IHRA on the international scene and bring Holocaust education, remembrance, and research to the fore.”

We send our deepest condolences to Tom’s family and colleagues.

Image: IHRA Honorary Chairman Professor Yehuda Bauer, IHRA Secretary General Dr. Kathrin Meyer, and Former IHRA Chair Ambassador Tom Vraalsen at the 2009 Oslo Plenary Session. Credit: IHRA