The IHRA’s Global Task Force against Holocaust Distortion and the Eli Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust joined forces for the fourth implementation of the IHRA-UNESCO Capacity Building Training Program, which unfolded in Bucharest, Romania on 10 and 11 April 2024. Educators and members of civil society organizations converged to address the pressing issue of Holocaust distortion and denial, aiming to equip themselves with knowledge and strategies to counter these troubling phenomena.

The program’s commencement marked a pivotal moment for educators who gathered from various institutions in Romania. 

In his opening remarks, Alexandru Florian, director of the Elie Wiesel Institute, emphasized the critical need to address and confront denial and distortion within Romania’s Holocaust narrative. 

“This is the first training of its kind taking place in Romania,” he said. “We organized topics dedicated to the history of the Holocaust specifically for this group of high school history teachers. The history of the Holocaust in Romania was hidden under the rug for a certain time, echoing messages of denial. Today, you will learn about this denial and distortion.” 

Empowering Educators as Agents of Change

Educators were shown a video on the growing threat of Holocaust distortion and whispers around the room soon followed. As participants were invited to share their thoughts on the footage, some expressed their surprise at the cases of distortion that were highlighted. Protestors sporting yellow stars at anti-vaccination rallies during COVID-19 stood out as a stark example.  

The ease with which one can be manipulated by such an issue poses a real danger, especially for the younger generation, who are often the targets of distortive narratives. 

“Distortion of the Holocaust has many shapes,” said Oana Nestian-Sandu, International Program Director of TOLI and leading author of the program. 

A prime example includes making historical comparisons of the Holocaust to other events. In 2013, the IHRA proposed a working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion that explains both terms. 

As the workshop progressed, educators were presented with documented cases of Holocaust distortion. They analyzed who is most affected by or vulnerable to believing distortion, the mindset behind distortion, and what could be done to counter it.  

The room agreed in unison that the youth often fall prey to extreme ideologies that are promoted by political parties, some of whom completely deny the role of the Holocaust in their country, while others take to social media to spread misinformation. 

“Democracy is a process that constantly needs working on,” Oana reminded the educators. 

 As 11th and 12th graders head to the polls for the first time in Romania’s local, national, and European elections, they will have a chance to explore their options, take preventive action, and make a real difference for country’s future. 

Partners in the Fight Against Holocaust Distortion

Day two kicked off with words from Dragoş Mihai Hotea, Secretary of State within the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and Romanian Deputy Head of Delegation to the IHRA, who addressed a room full of members from civil society organizations scattered across the country.  

“Romania is closely related to the IHRA not only from a political point of view, but it represents one of our state priorities to fight antisemitism and hate speech. It’s what brings us closer together. The government in Romania is very engaged in fighting radicalization and hate speech. We are facing a real risk, and we are aware of it,” stated Dragoş. 

In 2021, the Romanian government implemented their national strategy to fight antisemitism, using education as a tool that encourages individuals to learn more about Jewish life and culture.  

When participants were asked about whom they would hold responsible for distortion in contemporary society, old political campaigns that promoted partial truths were at the forefront. 

Maximillian Marco Katz, Founder and Chairman of Monitoring & Combating Antisemitism in Romania stated, “Romania is a democratic state, and I was thinking about how much responsibility it takes in its role in the Holocaust.” The country has recently adopted a mandatory curriculum in their education system to teach students about the history of the Holocaust 

As the 2024 elections draw closer, it has become increasingly evident that antisemitic behavior and the Holocaust have become a political tool that is being used for personal gain.  

Yet amidst the labyrinth of challenges, participants seemed motivated to eliminate prejudices and correct the distortive narrative that exists.  

Building a well-established educational system that encourages intercultural learning seemed to be a common solution amongst participants.  

“Establishing alliances dedicated to countering this existing distortion would go hand in hand with educating the masses and also enforcing legal measures,” added Maximillian. 

As the IHRA-UNESCO workshop concluded after two days of fruitful discussions, Oana’s words echoed in the room with the promise of a brighter tomorrow.  

“I’d like to highlight this idea that you’ve mentioned several times – and it’s this idea of an alliance. While we cannot expect things to change overnight, we can say that Romania has taken significant steps to counter the distortion that exists in our society.” 

Implementations such as this training program are an important step in the right direction. 

The Capacity Building Training program will be available online later this year. 


The workshop in Bucharest, Romania was part of a wider program of activity to help build the skills, knowledge and capacity among policymakers and educators. They accompany resources such as the IHRA Toolkit Against Holocaust Distortion, which is designed to help policy and decision-makers be ambassadors for change within their institutions, governments and communities, and the #ProtectTheFacts campaign, which empowers users counter distortion on social media.