This past March marked the beginning of one of the IHRA’s latest projects: Monitoring Access to Holocaust Collections, under the IHRA’s five-year priority theme of safeguarding the record. The project was approved for funding at the Luxembourg City Plenary in December 2019 and will conclude its work in December 2022.
There is concern that a significant amount of the documentation bearing on the Holocaust and its historical context has been scattered, endangered, and in many cases made inaccessible. Thus, the project aims to ensure full and open access to Holocaust collections by increasing awareness, creating a forum for cooperation, and establishing guidelines on archival access for use by archivists and policymakers.
The project’s unique multilateralism involves the engagement of project partners who play key roles in archival research. The first year’s project partner is the European Board of National Archivists (EBNA), which plans to host the project group at their conference in Berlin in summer 2020. The following years will involve similar cooperation with other partners.
Continuing work to promote accessibility of Holocaust archives
The research for the project builds off a previous five-year IHRA project which concluded in 2017, concerning archival access to Holocaust sources. This project contributed to ensuring that a specific exception for documents bearing on the Holocaust was included in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A further major achievement of that project was mapping the problems of access to Holocaust documentation around the world.
The new project on Monitoring Access to Holocaust Collections continues the work from this initial mapping and takes steps to further understand how access can be maintained and records safeguarded. A focus will be placed on how countries dealt with the exception in the GDPR within their own national and archival regulations. A general examination of legislation and regulations will be conducted on the country-specific level, followed by more in-depth research on a subset of relevant countries.
A main component of IHRA Programs is to identify historical records that are at risk or not accessible, and then to require that appropriate measures be taken to safeguard them and make them accessible. This project group works to do exactly that, aiming to produce a report on the ease of access to and legal statuses of Holocaust collections, and establishing an interest group of leaders that will assist the IHRA in monitoring access and formulating ways to improve access to these collections.
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 and the 2020 Ministerial Declaration.
The project Chair is Haim Gertner (Israel) and the steering team includes: David Matas (Canada), Micaela Procaccia (Italy), Floriane Azoulay (Arolsen Archives), Wesley Fisher (Claims Conference), Veerle Vanden Daelen (Belgium), Robert Williams (USA), Avril Alba (Australia), Margarida Lages (Portugal), and Nevena Bajalica (Serbia).