You’ve been involved with the IHRA Grant Program for a while – can you give us some background on how it was established and how it has developed? 

AB: The IHRA began as a small group of countries. When the Grant Program began, it was primarily seen as a way of helping to strengthen capacity-building around Europe among experts and organizations with a Holocaust-related connection.

25 years later, the IHRA has matured and expanded enormously. An abundance of innovative, constructive, and deeply thoughtful work on researching, teaching and safeguarding the memory of the Holocaust, countering antisemitism, Holocaust distortion and denial, and work too on the genocide of the Roma, has been delivered in that time.

And so, the Grant Program in a sense, evolved in pace with that. There is more material and there’s more understanding.

What motivated you to work for the IHRA Grant Program?

AB: Well, it goes back to the invitation I had from the British government after I had retired from, as it were, an active diplomatic career to become the UK Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues.

There was a strong feeling in the UK that Britain should be doing more in this field, after we had played such a major part in World War II and in the politics of the time. There were already quite a lot of organizations in Britain involved in teaching the young about the Holocaust. But there was a great fear that the history would fade from people’s memories or become distorted once the first generation of survivors had passed on.

One thing that’s particularly attracted me in all of this is encouraging applications from grassroots levels to think internationally, to draw upon the expertise of the IHRA itself, but also to look for international partners not simply in terms of the audience for whatever they’re trying to do, but as part of the intellectual energy that goes into thinking about what is a good project and how can we make it really successful in its full impact.


The Grant Program further intensifies our understanding of history.

Why is the Grant Program important to the IHRA’s mission?

AB: The priorities we have set have informed how we decide what to support. These may change over time, but at the moment, one is safeguarding the record, and the other is combating distortion and antisemitism. We’ve embraced the genocide of the Roma as a core element and partner in these topics, with a particular focus on its history and remembrance. It’s surprising how many aspects there are still to be investigated in Holocaust and Roma Genocide studies. A lot of good work is being done particularly in the Balkans and in the Baltic states. More needs to be done in and around Ukraine. Unrestricted access to archives is crucial.

In a way, the Grant Program further intensifies our understanding of history. For a lot of the grant proposals, applications focus on mapping out the reality of the Holocaust particularly along the contested lines of Eastern Europe. There’s a lot of interest in the methodology of teaching, of understanding how to tackle prejudice and misinformation. There’s an increased drive to develop active response programs to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial. It’s important that there are some real practical outcomes. This is what the IHRA Grant Program supports.

Tell us about one or more projects you’re excited about in the latest round of grant recipients?

AB: I was particularly glad that we were able to support a program to strengthen the training of Polish and Ukrainian historians. Getting a good, experienced cadre of academics who really understand the very tangled history of that part of Europe, especially during World War II, is vital, especially considering that some of these academics face pretty strong hurdles in terms of criticism or public pressure.

This is exactly why it’s important to help strengthen their ability to keep a steady hand on the process of writing history and understanding it.

The IHRA Grant Program is valued by the governments of the 35 Members Countries of which the IHRA is made up.

What advice would you give to researchers or organizations preparing to submit grant proposals to the IHRA?

AB: I think my advice to everybody is to be ambitious and, if you get IHRA support, that’ll probably encourage other people to give you additional funding too.

It’s important that applicants shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. 25 years on, there are a host of tools that IHRA has produced. Any applicant needs to talk to the IHRA Permanent Office in detail about what they want to put forward. We place a lot of importance on communication, on monitoring and evaluation, on being clear about your objectives and identifying other partners and people who can make a good idea even better.

The more expertise you have, and the more you can draw on international experience, the better your product will be. The IHRA Grant Program is a program of real value, valued by the governments of the 35 Members Countries of which the IHRA is made up.


As the IHRA continues to evolve, Sir Andrew Burns remains dedicated to ensuring that the Grant Program remains at the forefront of Holocaust remembrance and education efforts. Through strategic investment and international cooperation, the IHRA aims to honor the memory of the past while confronting the challenges of the present and future.

The new funding call for the IHRA Grant Program will open in July.