United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Director-General opens Seminar on Holocaust Remembrance

On 3 June, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, opened a seminar on Holocaust Remembrance organized by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the Russian Holocaust Foundation and the French Association, Verbe et Lumière -Vigilance.

The seminar, entitled “Applying the Lessons of the Holocaust to Combat Contemporary Expressions of Hatred”, was held at the Organization’s Headquarters and was attended by Dr Alla Gerber, President of the Russian Holocaust Foundation, Dr Ilya Altman, Director of the Russian Holocaust Foundation, Dr Simon Samuels, Director for International Relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and Professor David Wingeate Pike, Director of Research at the American Graduate School of International Diplomacy in Paris. Also in attendance were the winners of the fourth annual Holocaust Essay competition organized by the Russian Holocaust Foundation at universities across the Russian Federation and students of contemporary history at the American Graduate School of International Diplomacy.

In his opening remarks to participants, Mr Matsuura said that whether their lives had been directly affected by a personal experience of the Holocaust or not, they were all “united by a determination that the atrocities committed during that dark moment of human history must never be repeated.” Observing that “the driving force behind the creation of UNESCO in the aftermath of the Second World War was a collective will to build societies based on tolerance, mutual understanding and respect for human rights,” he said that “this morning’s exchange is both timely and relevant. We must keep alive the memory of the Holocaust and use it as a rallying point for preventive action.”

Referring to the adoption of Resolution 61 on Holocaust Remembrance by the Organization’s 34th General Conference in November 2007, the Director-General recalled the solemn ceremony held at UNESCO on 28 January 2008 to mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Shoah (see Flash info 009-2008), and said that that he had been actively exploring possible modalities for strengthening UNESCO’s role in promoting awareness of Holocaust remembrance through education. “In view of the importance that Holocaust Education was given in the Memorandum of Understanding I signed during my visit to Israel in February this year, we are considering developing activities to mainstream Holocaust Education through textbooks, as well as training conferences of coordinators of our Associated Schools Project Network from all regions of the world.”

In closing, Mr Matsuura reiterated the absolute necessity for the young scholars to keep the Holocaust at the forefront of our collective consciousness through research and reflection, observing that “as we mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must continue to use knowledge to bring people together in the search for a just and peaceful world. […] free from racism, xenophobia, and exclusion.”

Following the seminar, the Director-General held a meeting with Baron David de Rothschild, President of the French Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, during which they discussed areas for joint cooperation in promoting awareness of Holocaust remembrance through education, curricula and textbooks, as well as the fight against all forms of racism and discrimination. “It is crucial that we succeed in developing educational programmes that can inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust, and educate them in favour of peace, human rights and tolerance”, emphasized Mr Matsuura.

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Author(s): Office of the Spokeswoman - Source: Flash Info N° 068-2008 -  Publication Date: 04-06-2008

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