On the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the surrender of Nazi Germany, the fight against Holocaust denial and distortion is more urgent than ever.
A special contribution from IHRA Executive Secretary Dr. Kathrin Meyer:
Today, many countries around the world commemorate the end of the Holocaust and the surrender of Nazi Germany. Remembering the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the other victims of Nazi persecution and murder is the responsibility not only of governments but of societies as a whole. And although the global pandemic means that commemorations will look very different this year, governments and organizations are still finding ways to come together to highlight the anniversary of this important moment in the historical record.
Holocaust distortion on the rise
Even on such an important date, however, many forms of denial and distortion remain widespread. As IHRA Honorary Chairman Professor Yehuda Bauer stressed in Ferrara in 2018, “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.”
Holocaust denial and distortion is as old as the Holocaust itself, but in recent years lies and distortion have become more widespread and more dangerous. They also often accompany a wide range of motives, up to and including the rehabilitation of antisemitism and the promotion of ideologies that invite genocide and crimes against humanity. Efforts to minimize the impact of the Holocaust and downplay the crimes of the National Socialists and their collaborators, whether intentional or otherwise, can be seen in both public and political discourse, and from a variety of ideological backgrounds. No matter their source, however, they always work to support antisemitic views and ideologies.
Taking action against Holocaust denial and distortion
Recognizing the urgency of this issue, the German Presidency of the IHRA, who took over the chairmanship in March, has launched the Global Task Force Against Holocaust Denial and Distortion. This task force will serve as a network that brings together likeminded governmental and non-governmental bodies to identify, develop and promote good practices on countering distortion.
The impetus behind the task force is the set of principles included in the 2020 Ministerial Declaration, which IHRA Member Countries committed to in January of this year. This declaration, passed under the Luxembourg Chairmanship, started off the IHRA’s activities in this significant year, and will guide the IHRA for many more years to come. In times of rising nationalism and the mainstreaming of right-wing ideologies, the need for a strong commitment to the principles outlined in the 2020 Ministerial Declaration is greater than ever. The Global Task Force Against Holocaust Denial and Distortion speaks directly to this need and to Member Countries’ responsibility “to continue working together to counter Holocaust denial and distortion, antisemitism, and all forms of racism and discrimination that undermine fundamental democratic principles.”
The aim of the task force is to develop recommendations on countering distortion for adoption by the IHRA Plenary in December 2020 and to promote these throughout 2021.