Shaping the future this Holocaust Remembrance Day
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) marks this International Holocaust Remembrance Day by introducing a groundbreaking tool to safeguard the record as well as fortifying international cooperation on combating Holocaust distortion.
The IHRA participated in the European Commission’s Working Group on the implementation of the EU Strategy on combating antisemitism in Brussels to discuss their work on safeguarding sites. During the discussion, IHRA Secretary General Dr. Kathrin Meyer observed that “Sites of the Holocaust, beyond being physical locations, require political attention and commitment from our Member Countries. The condition of these sites serves as a mirror reflecting the seriousness with which these commitments are undertaken. Sites are vital arenas in the fight against Holocaust distortion and antisemitism. They are the guardians of historical facts that must be passed on to future generations.”
IHRA Co-Chair Sara Lustig also addressed the Working Group, stating that “Appropriately safeguarding sites enables these places to accurately teach the stories of the Holocaust, to explain to future generations the dangers of antisemitism, and help them understand that antisemitism is both incompatible with European values and threatens our democratic, pluralistic societies.”
Ahead of its public launch later in the day, Dr. Gilly Carr, Chair of the IHRA Project on Safeguarding Sites gave the Working Group an insight into the new IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites, which was adopted in November 2023 by the IHRA’s 35 Member Countries.
Following the Working Group meeting, participants were invited to attend an all new IHRA-funded IWalk in Brussels developed by the USC Shoah Foundation and the Zachor Foundation in cooperation with the House of European History titled “Hidden Children – Survivors of the Holocaust in Brussels.” The group was led on a tour connecting specific locations of memory with survivors’ testimonies focusing on the experiences of children who lived in hiding in Brussels during the Holocaust.
In the evening, the Holocaust Remembrance Conference: Remembering the past. Shaping the future took place. The event was hosted by the European Commission, the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the IHRA. The IHRA Charter for Safeguarding Sites was officially launched by the IHRA Co-Chairs during their opening statement. IHRA Co-Chair Ambassador Terezija Gras explained that “If the stories of the Holocaust are abundant – and protected – in the places where they happened, their impact will continue to reverberate through generations.”
Simonetta Della Setta, Chair of the IHRA’s Museums and Memorials Working Group and Veerle Vanden Daelen, Chair of the IHRA Project on Monitoring Access to Holocaust Collections served as panelists during a fruitful discussion on safeguarding sites. They both gave crucial insight into the role sites and archives play not only in safeguarding the record of the Holocaust, but also in ensuring dignified remembrance of the victims and survivors.
The event was concluded by lighting candles in memory of victims of the Nazis and their collaborators followed by a musical interlude for a moment of reflection.
If the stories of the Holocaust are abundant – and protected – in the places where they happened, their impact will continue to reverberate through generations.
In keeping with the theme of international cooperation, IHRA Co-Chair Sara Lustig attended the Council of Europe’s Ceremony to Mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust at the Palais de l’Europe on 24 January. This event marked an important milestone in the IHRA and the Council of Europe’s longstanding partnership, with the Council of Europe officially joining the #ProtectTheFacts campaign. In her address, Sara Lustig expressed that it is an honor “to have the Council of Europe, who has been an important Permanent International Partner of the IHRA since 2010, join the global awareness-raising campaign. By working together, we can fortify our efforts, protect the facts from manipulation, and cultivate a collective responsibility to combat hatred and discrimination in the present day.”
The #ProtectTheFacts campaign has launched new assets for International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2024.
Continuing the effort towards international cooperation, IHRA Co-Chair Ambassador Terezija Gras will address the OSCE Permanent Council on issues of safeguarding the record and combating antisemitism and Holocaust distortion on 1 February. The IHRA’s activities this Holocaust Remembrance Day reflect the words of IHRA Co-Chair Terezija Gras: “Countering Holocaust distortion and combating antisemitism is not just about protecting the past; it is about protecting the present and most importantly, it is about protecting the future.”