International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
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|Purpose||Holocaust remembrance, education, research|
|Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research|
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1998. Until January 2013, it went under the name Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research.
The organization's mandate is founded upon the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, also known as the Stockholm Declaration. The stated aims of IHRA are to mobilize and coordinate political and social leaders' support for Holocaust education, remembrance, and research at national and international levels.
- 1 Mandate
- 2 History
- 3 Members
- 4 Organizational Structure
- 5 IHRA Multi-Year Work Plan
- 6 Project Funding
- 7 Controversies
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The work of IHRA is organized into three core thematic areas: education, remembrance, and research.
In the field of education, the Alliance states that it seeks to improve Holocaust education in its member states and beyond. This is done through teacher training programs and curricula development, as well as through the promotion of study trips to former concentration camps and other Holocaust-related sites.
With regards to remembrance, IHRA emphasizes the importance of the Holocaust as part of the collective memory of contemporary and future societies, focusing in particular on cultural forms of remembrance and commemoration such as memorials, museums, monuments, and historical sites related to the Holocaust, as well as on national Holocaust remembrance days and the UN-designated annual International Day of Commemoration of the Holocaust on January 27.
In the area of research, IHRA aims to facilitate academic research in the field of Holocaust Studies through the opening of Holocaust-related archives and the development of international Holocaust research networks.
IHRA was founded in 1998 at the initiative of Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. Following a Swedish survey in 1997 that revealed many school children were not convinced about the Holocaust, and affected by his personal experience of visiting the site of the former Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg, Prime Minister Persson decided to launch a debate in parliament about Holocaust education in Sweden. This resulted in the Swedish information campaign entitled Levande Historia (Living History). Realizing that 'the fight against ignorance about the Holocaust called for an international partnership' Persson also took steps towards establishing an international organization to expand Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide. He wrote to US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking for their support.
The first meeting of the new body took place in May 1998. Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer took on the role of academic advisor. In 1998, Germany and Israel joined the initiative, followed in 1999 by the Netherlands, Poland, France, and Italy. By 2007, a further sixteen countries had joined.
The IHRA formalized its relations with the Council of Europe, the International Tracing Service, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
The Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
In January 2000, an international conference was held in Stockholm to mark the 55th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It was attended by historians, politicians, and heads of state from 45 countries. Yehuda Bauer was invited to head the academic committee, while Nobel Prize Laureate Professor Elie Wiesel was asked to become the Honorary Chairman of the Forum. A joint declaration was unanimously adopted. As Helmut Dubiel notes, the conference "took place in an atmosphere informed by right-wing violence and spectacular success of rightist parties at the voting polls. Nonetheless, the end of the millennium and the anniversary of Auschwitz constituted a reference point for the foundation of a transnational union for struggle against genocide."
The Stockholm Declaration
During the conference, the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust (or The Stockholm Declaration) was signed. The declaration is the founding document of IHRA as an intergovernmental organization (and is not to be confused with the 1972 Stockholm Declaration adopted by the UN). It consists of eight points, which emphasize the importance of the Holocaust and "education, remembrance and research" about the Holocaust.
With humanity still scarred by genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism and xenophobia, the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight those evils. Together we must uphold the terrible truth of the Holocaust against those who deny it. We must strengthen the moral commitment of our peoples, and the political commitment of our governments, to ensure that future generations can understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect upon its consequences.— Point 3, Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
The declaration advocates the need to uphold the "terrible truth of the Holocaust against those who deny it," and to preserve the memory of the Holocaust as a "touchstone in our understanding of the human capacity for good and evil." According to the declaration, "the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight" "genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism and xenophobia".
|Member State||Year Joined|
IHRA is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 31 member countries and eight observer countries. Member state delegations are chaired by ambassadors or other officials of a senior rank within the government. Non-governmental organizations are part of the delegations and nominated by them, serving as their experts. The national delegations convene at biannual plenary meetings, the first in Spring/Summer, the second in Fall/Winter, taking place in the chairing country. At these meetings the diplomats decide upon the policies recommended for implementation by the Working Groups.
Members States must be committed to the Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, and must accept the principles adopted by IHRA regarding membership. Member States must be committed to the implementation of national policies and programs in support of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. Countries that are not yet full members of the IHRA may participate in the following capacities:
- Observer Country: Country having officially declared the intention to join IHRA.
- Liaison Country: Former Observer Country in the process of becoming a Member Country.
- Special Guest: Country or NGO temporarily invited by the Chair of IHRA to participate in meetings.
- Permanent International Partners: International organizations with the status of observers. They can actively participate in the meetings of the working groups. The Permanent International Partners to IHRA include: the Council of Europe; the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency; the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; the International Tracing Service; UNESCO and the United Nations. The Claims Conference, as the preeminent negotiator for indemnification claims on behalf of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, has also been granted Permanent International Partner status.
- IHRA also collaborates with a number of affiliated organizations, often NGOs or other institutions, selected as expert representatives by the Member States in which they are active.
IHRA functions through a system of voluntary chairmanship rotating annually between member states. Each country organizes and pays for the meetings taking place in the year of their chairmanship. The Chair is supported by the Secretariat; the Honorary Chairman (Prof. Yehuda Bauer); the Advisor to IHRA (Steven T. Katz), and the Troika composed of the Former Chair, the Current Chair, and the Incoming Chair.
The Secretariat of IHRA was inaugurated in March 2008 and is based in Berlin, Germany. Headed by the Executive Secretary, the Secretariat plays an important role in the coordination of IHRA activities by providing advice and assistance to the Chair and Member State delegations, candidate countries, Working Groups, and project funding applicants. The Secretariat also handles external enquiries and coordinates the day-to-day operations of the organization.
The Alliance has established a number of Working Groups, consisting of government representatives and other experts from each Member State who work together to develop IHRA policy as well as to assess proposals for project funding. There are four core Working Groups:
Academic Working Group (AWG)
The Academic Working Group, established in 2000, is concerned with promoting Holocaust research; increasing accessibility to and organizing research into archives; managing academic projects such as the publication and translation of scholarly books; and organizing university-level Holocaust study programs and international conferences. The AWG was instrumental in opening the International Tracing Service archives in Bad Arolson, which contains some 70 million pages of documents relating to the fate of over 17 million victims of World War II. Education Working Group (EWG)
The Education Working Group, established in 2001, provides support and advice on matters of educational best practices, assists with teacher training through existing institutions and new projects initiated by host countries, and makes available the practical expertise of IHRA Member States to any partner that requests support in Holocaust-related educational activities. The EWG has established pedagogical guidelines for teaching the Holocaust in IHRA’s 31 Member Countries. The EWG has also implemented hundreds of teacher training programs around the world, especially in Eastern Europe.
Memorials and Museums Working Group (MMWG)
The Memorials and Museums Working Group, established in 2002, helps to mobilize support and expertise for Holocaust memorials and related places of memory in keeping with the Stockholm Declaration. It collects information on memorials and establishes databases as a foundation for this work. It explores how the preservation of memorials may be ensured in perpetuity; promotes communication and exchange between memorial sites and museums and encourages the use of memorial sites and institutions for professional engagement, training, and development. The MMWG has succeeded in establishing an international network to exchange information, experience and best practices in cultures of remembrance in memorials and museums. This network continues to expand, with plans for annual conferences, workshops and other forms of cooperation. The MMWG has also contributed to the development of two websites established by the Topography of Terror Foundation (Berlin). The website Cultures of Remembrance provides a basis for international dialogue about different forms of remembrance and commemoration. The website Memorial Museums provides an overview of the world’s most important memorials, monuments, museums and other institutions that commemorate the victims of National Socialist persecution. IHRA was also instrumental in campaigning against the destruction of the site of the former Gusen Concentration Camp in Austria, which will now be preserved as a memorial.
Communication Working Group (CWG)
The Communication Working Group provides the public with information about IHRA and its projects, as well as on developments in Holocaust education, remembrance, and research worldwide. It also ensures efficient communication among the members of the Alliance and its Working Groups.
IHRA has three committees that bring experts from all Working Groups together to address topics that are of contemporary interest to IHRA and of a cross-cutting nature across its three principle areas of activity.
Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial
The creation of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in 2009 turned the focus of the organization towards the contemporary challenges of Holocaust denial and distortion, and current forms of antisemitism. The Committee’s defining trait is the Working Definition on Holocaust Denial and Distortion  which was developed in cooperation with governmental representatives from IHRA members for use as a working tool and adopted in 2013.
Committee on the Genocide of the Roma
Since 2009 the Committee on the Genocide of the Roma aims to increase the commitment of IHRA to promote education, research, and remembrance on the fate of the Roma during the Holocaust and to engage with contemporary issues such as hate speech and discrimination against Roma. The Committee is engaged in supporting organizations with a focus on the Roma in IHRA’s Grant Program application process, raising visibility of the issue through outreach and networking, and by organizing a conference held in London in 2014. In 2014 the Committee initiated two research projects: an annotated bibliography of academic publications on the genocide of the Roma, and an overview of international organizations working on the genocide of the Roma and contemporary issues.
Committee on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity
The Committee on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity grew from a sub-committee focusing on how to support educators in teaching about the relationship of the Holocaust to other genocides and crimes against humanity. Discussions resulted in the publication of the document The Holocaust and Other Genocides, which offers ideas and recommendations for educators.
IHRA Multi-Year Work Plan
MYWP on Education Research Project
The MYWP on Education Research aims to provide an overview of empirical research studies focusing on teaching and learning about the Holocaust. A conference will be held in Switzerland in 2016 to disseminate and discuss the project’s findings among academics, educational experts, decision-makers, NGOs, diplomats, and funding organizations.
MYWP Killing Sites
IHRA’s project on killing sites is dedicated to locating killing sites and ensuring their commemoration and preservation. The 2014 conference “Killing Sites – Research and Remembrance” focused on fieldwork as well as exploring regional perspectives, databases, education, and commemoration. A publication incorporating the conference papers, the first relatively comprehensive and up-to-date anthology on the current state of research on this topic, was published in March 2015, marking the first book in IHRA’s publication series.
MYWP on Holocaust Memorial Days
The MYWP on Holocaust Memorial Days organizes senior-level meetings with government representatives, policy-makers, students, and NGOs. IHRA delegations, including the IHRA Chair, the Advisor to IHRA, IHRA’s Executive Secretary, and affiliated experts, have visited IHRA member countries including Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania, and Spain under the auspices of the MYWP.
MYWP on Archival Access
The MYWP on Archival Access evaluates the state of access to relevant materials located in IHRA member and non-member countries. The project’s overall aim is to strengthen the commitment to opening archives as stated in the Stockholm Declaration. The MYWP research results showed that challenges faced by scholars and researchers include legal obstacles, the closure of archives, prohibitive costs, and inadequate research facilities. The poor physical condition of some materials and data privacy regulations were also cited. The MYWP project aims to support IHRA member countries in undertaking a review of classified or otherwise administratively restricted Holocaust-related documents. The project also incorporates IHRA’s initiative to engage with the European Union in calling for open access to Holocaust-related material.
IHRA has provided financial support to projects related to its mandate fields. The organization's current Grant Strategy includes two programs:
- Develop strategies for Holocaust Memorial Days in a way that injects substance, real meaning, and educational value into these events.
- Raise awareness and promote research into the causes of the Holocaust, its driving forces and mechanism, with a focus on preventing genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism, and xenophobia.
The Grant Program places an emphasis on multilateral projects, seeking to stimulate the international exchange of expertise and international dialogue.
The Norwegian Chairmanship and Knut Hamsun controversy
IHRA faced criticism from a number of public and academic Jewish groups and personalities in relation to the Norwegian chairmanship of 2009. The chairmanship coincided with a controversial decision by Norway to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Knut Hamsun, the Nobel Prize–winning Norwegian author and later Nazi sympathizer. Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld, Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has challenged Norway's chairmanship of the Alliance, arguing that "this country is unfit to hold such a position when in the same year it has held major memorial activities for the Nazi-admirer Hamsun."
On July 20, 2009, the Norwegian chair published a statement rejecting the accusations against it, and promising to continue the Alliance's efforts to combat antisemitism and promote Holocaust education.
In an article for Israeli newspaper The Jerusalem Post, Yehuda Bauer defended the Norwegian chairmanship. Bauer emphasized Norway's commitment to Holocaust education, while also acknowledging the continuing presence of antisemitism in Norway and elsewhere:
"The arguments against Norway would be more credible if the Norwegians did not admit that there is antisemitism in Norway, that they ignored or wanted to bury Hamsun's pro-Nazi stand or that they hampered IHRA's work in fighting anti-Semitism in any way. Not only is none of this true, but it was the Norwegian chairman that, before this controversy exploded, insisted on including the fight against anti-Semitism as a central component in the IHRA's immediate future program - the proposal was accepted by acclamation."
Bauer also argued that for Norway, the commemoration of Hamsun also represented a form of Holocaust education: "The Norwegians believe the contrast between the work of a brilliant and universally-acclaimed author, and his personality as a pro-Nazi, is an occasion for educational efforts."
The Vatican, IHRA, and Pope Pius XII controversy
In 2009, the Alliance suggested that the Vatican enter into a "special arrangement" with IHRA. The Holy See’s Under Secretary of State, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, answered favorably. Moreover, he suggested that the Vatican become an IHRA observer. Negotiations began, but several months later, the proposal was dismissed. In leaked American diplomatic cables, it is stated that "the highly-regarded Parolin" had been promoted and replaced by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero. "Surprising the ITF, Balestrero also invited a representative from the Vatican Archives, Msgr. Chappin, and the Holy See's chief negotiator for the long-delayed Vatican-Israel Fundamental Agreement, Father David Jaeger."
On December 21, 2010, The Guardian newspaper published a news article based on US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks about the failure of negotiations. As The Guardian article reports, the Vatican withdrew from a written agreement to join the international Holocaust memorial organisation. The Guardian also published the US embassy cables, which details the negotiations and reveal that "all three men" (Balestrero, Chappin, and Jaeger) who met with the IHRA representatives "evinced considerable discomfort with the idea of ITF observer status".
Relationship to Pope Pius XII controversy
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Julieta Valls Noyes, second in command at the American Embassy to the Vatican, reported in October 2009 that the plans "had fallen apart completely … due to Vatican back-pedaling". According to Noyes, this could indicate that the Vatican "may ... be pulling back due to concerns about ITF pressure to declassify records from the WWII-era pontificate of Pope Pius XII".
As The Guardian article explains, Pope Pius XII has long been a controversial figure for his failure to publicly denounce the Holocaust in 1921-41 when first informed about it. Noyes reported that only six or eight researchers were working on the 16m documents, stored in hundreds of crates, that are left over from Pius XII's papacy. It had previously taken a team of four Jesuits, working full-time for 17 years, to produce 12 volumes of his diplomatic correspondence.
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