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January 27th International Holocaust Remembrance Day: A Look at Remembrance Events in IHRA’s Member Countries

21.01.2010

What are IHRA member states doing to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th?

*Update 1*: President Obama delivers remarks commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Birkenau in a taped message for the ceremony in Krakow, Poland, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. For a text version of the remarks see here.

*Update 2*: On 27 January, the German Bundestag held a Ceremony of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism in the Reichstag Building in Berlin, including speeches by the President of the Bundestag, Professor Norbert Lammert, follwed by the President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, and Polish historian Professor Feliks Tych.

On 27 January 1945, the advancing Soviet army entered the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp complex, liberating more than 7000 remaining prisoners, for the most part ill or dying. Days earlier, the SS had forced nearly 60,000 prisoners to evacuate the camp and embark on the infamous 'Death Marches' in which many thousands lost their lives. In 2005, the UN General Assembly designated 27 January as the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, the day upon which, every year, the world would mark and remember the Holocaust and its victims. 65 years on from the liberation of Auschwitz, it is more important than ever to remind ourselves of the universal lessons of the Holocaust.

In 2010, the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust will be marked by a number of national and international events. The UN itself will focus its 2010 events on the central theme "The Legacy of Survival", emphasizing the universal lessons that the survivors will pass on to succeeding generations.  A series of events will take place in the week of 25 January 2010 at United Nations Headquarters in New York and at United Nations Information Centres around the world. Find out more here.

On national levels, the day will be marked by all manner of commemorative events and actions. So what are IHRA member states doing to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day? The following overview is based on information and links provided by member state delegations to the IHRA.

Austria - Belgium - Canada - Croatia - Czech Republic - Denmark - Estonia - Finland -  France - Germany - Greece - Hungary - Israel Italy - Latvia - Lithuania - Luxembourg - Norway - Poland - Romania - Slovakia - Spain - Sweden - Switzerland - United Kingdom - United States of America - Liaison Country: Serbia -  Non-IHRA Country: Ukraine

Austria

Since 1997, 5 May - the day upon which Mauthausen Concentration camp was liberated - has been designated as a "Memorial Day against Violence and Racism in Remembrance of the Victims of National Socialism" in Austria. This annual day of remembrance is given particular attention in schools, at national, municipal and local government levels. Every year a special joint session is also held in the Austrian parliament to commemorate the day. In 2010, a special project with school children is planned, in which the children will, between February and May, engage in projects dealing with the issues surrounding National Socialism. On 27 January, the Austrian President of the National Council, Barbara Prammer will attend the official commemoration ceremony in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Read her statement on Austria's ITF page.

Belgium

The national day of Holocaust remembrance in Belgium is 8 May. In 2010, a trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau organized by the National Institute for War Disabled, War Veterans and Victims of War is planned on 27 January and will be led by the Defense Minister. About a hundred secondary school students will take part in this trip, as well as survivors and witnesses. The organization Union des Déportés Juifs de Belgique - Filles et Fils de Déportés has announced a ceremony to be held at Marcinelle cemetery on 26 January at 3pm and that a special commemoration will take place at the Grand Synagogue of Brussels on 31 January.

Canada

Canada co-sponsored the United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution on Holocaust Remembrance (A/RES/60/7), adopted on 1 November 2005. Canadian governments (federal, provincial/territorial) acknowledge 27 January. Federally, this day is marked with official statements by Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, and by several provincial/territorial premiers. Minister Jason Kenney will also participate in the 2010 commemoration ceremony to mark 27 January at Auschwitz. A number of events will be held by non-governmental organisations in Canada to mark the International Holocaust Remembrance day on 27 January this year. Find out more about these here.

At the federal level, the Government of Canada commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day ("Yom Ha Shoah") which is determined in each year by the Jewish lunar calendar. In 2009 it was held on April 21. Events are held and statements are made across the country to commemorate this day. Canada has also officially declared 17 January as Raoul Wallenberg Day, designated for reflection on the evils of racism and hate and the profound impact that an individual who speaks out can have.

Croatia

27 January was established as the 'Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity' in the Republic of Croatia in 2003. All schools in Croatia commemorate this day through a variety of activities, including presentations, lectures, videos, films, student projects and visits to the Jasenovac Concentration Camp Memorial Site. In 2010, several day-long seminars marking Holocaust Remembrance Day will be organized for teachers of History, Religious Education, Ethics, Civics, Croatian and foreign languages.

Czech Republic

The Parliament of the Czech Republic declared 27 January the official Memorial Day of the Holocaust Victims and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity in 2004. The Czech Republic co-sponsored the UN resolution on the Holocaust remembrance in 2005, on the basis of which the UN General Assembly decided to designate 27 January the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 2010, a commemorative event to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day will take place in the Knights' Hall of the Senate of the Czech Republic. This event is traditionally held under the auspices of the President of the Senate and is attended by the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Government Ministers and Members of the Parliament. The event is organised by the Senate in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, the Foundation for Holocaust Victims, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and the Jewish Community in Prague. Regional and municipal authorities hold commemorative events in co-operation with respective local Jewish communities. The President of the Republic also supports a number of other commemorative events held by the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic and the Jewish Community in Prague. The Government as a whole and the respective ministries, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, the office of the Minister for Human Rights, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provide their organisational and financial assistance to public benefit organisations and non-governmental entities involved in the commemorative events on 27 January, raising awareness about the significance of the date or generally promoting education and research about the Shoah and the Samudaripen. More information can be found here.

*Update* Photos of the Holocaust Remembrance Day event at the Senate

Denmark

27 January is the official Danish commemoration day for victims of the Holocaust and other genocides. The purpose of Auschwitz Day is to further public debate and education on genocide. In 2010 commemorative events will be organized in six municipalities under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. There will be talks by survivors, lectures by historians, philosophers, psychiatrists, aid workers etc, and there will be film viewings, concerts, photo exhibitions as well as plays.  In the weeks leading up to 27 January the Ministry of Education together with the Danish  Institute for International Studies offers a series of seminars for high school students across Denmark. During the seminars students participate in workshops where genocides and genocidal violence from a variety of countries and time periods are discussed from different angles. In addition to the official events on 27 January a series of non-governmental activities are organized in relation to 27 January. Also organized in relation to the remembrance day are the launch of educational material or books focusing on the Holocaust and other genocides; independent seminars for primary schools; debates for the broader public; and teacher training seminars.

Estonia

On 27 January 2010, Estonia will commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day in an annual candle-lighting ceremony to be held at the memorial at the site of the Klooga death camp, established during the Nazi occupation. The ceremony is being organised in co-operation with the Estonian Jewish community. Traditionally the commemoration ceremony includes the participation of a member of the Estonian government, who will give a formal speech at the memorial.  After the commemoration event at Klooga, there will be a commemorative concert in the Tallinn synagogue. The day will also be commemorated in schools, with educational materials published with the support of the ITF and Estonian Ministry of Education and Research are distributed to every school in the country. In January 2010, an exhibition entitled called "The Story of Anne Frank" is on display in the National Library of Estonia.

*Update*:  Statement delivered by the Estonian Minister of Culture Laine Jänes on Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 Jan 2010

Finland

In Finland 27 January is the official commemoration day for victims of the Holocaust and other genocides. In 2010 several events were organized to mark the day, including a teacher's seminar, academic conferences, and a commemoration event on the evening of the 27th January. Read more here.

France

The Mémorial de la Shoah in France has organized a series of events to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010, including concerts, conferences, lectures, film projections and memorial ceremonies. A remembrance ceremony has been organised at UNESCO in association with the Memorial de la Shoah. The two organisations have also cooperated on a new publication examining Holocaust education in sub-Saharan Africa, released to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day 2010. Abroad, the Memorial de la Shoah have organised exhibitions in Geneva, Brussels and Tunis.

Germany

Germany officially commemorates the Holocaust on 27 January. The day is called "Memorial Day for the Victims of the National-Socialist Regime." It was introduced by President Roman Herzog in 1996. The focus is on remembering all the victims of the Nazi crimes.The official commemorative ceremony takes place in the German Parliament in Berlin, in the presence of the President, the government, representatives of the federal states and the president of the federal constitutional court. The parliament traditionally invites a wide range of institutions and groups to attend the ceremony.The central commemorative event is complemented with events that take place on authentic sites and on the local level, with a view to involving young people, schools and local groups.

Greece

Commemorative events for the 27 January Holocaust Memorial Day are organized throughout Greece by Prefectures in collaboration with Jewish communities. In Athens a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been organized, as well as a ceremony at the Athens Synagogue, where the main speaker will be the Minister of Education, Lifelong learning and Religious Affairs. In Thessaloniki, a commemorative event will take place at the Holocaust Memorial, organized by the Prefecture and the President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki. Further commemoration events have been organized by the Prefecture and the Jewish communities in the cities of Larissa and Volos. On 25 January 2010, a study on the looting of monetary gold of the Jews during the Nazi occupation of Greece will be presented at the amphitheatre "Yannos Kranidiotis" of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Hungary

At the 65th anniversary of liberating Auschwitz, the Holocaust Memorial Center will introduce the publication entitled Each/Other (in Hungarian), which provides an overview about the most interesting tolerance projects which help cultures to communicate with each other. Representatives of international organisations and Budapest embassies who helped to prepare the brochure are invited to the event. To present the importance of these projects, Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis - the Ambassador of the United States, Pierre Goimond- the Ambassador of Canada, René Roudaut - the Ambassador of France and Jaromír Plisek - the Ambassador of the Czech Republic will offer their projects in person for the Hungarian youth.

Italy

27 January is commemorated through a series of events in Italy, including an official address by the  President of the republic.  The Committee for the Holocaust Memorial Day has coordinated a 'Day of Memory Programme' which will include a range of events such as a memorial ceremony in the Parliament, the opening of a documentary exhibition on Auschwitz, and a prize ceremony for young winners of the annual competition organized jointly by the Ministry of National Education and the Union of Jewish Communities. International Holocaust Memoral Day 2010 will also mark the inauguration of an international Masters in Holocaust Studies, Remembrance and Education. Two inauguration events are planned; one held at the Ministry of National Education and another at the Provincia di Roma.  A further series of Day of Memory initiatives will be held in cities across the country, including Milan, Turin, Bologna, Florence, Padua, Rome, Genoa and Ancona. Read more about these here.

*Update* Read Professor David Meghnagi's inauguration speech 'The Memory of the Trauma of the Shoah in the Building of a European Identity'.

Israel

On Monday, January 25, 2010 a new exhibition, "Architecture of Murder: The Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints" will open at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. On display will be original architectural blueprints of Auschwitz-Birkenau, given to Yad Vashem for safekeeping by the German newspaper Bild, published by Axel-Springer. Marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the opening will take place as part of a special symposium in the presence of dozens of members of the diplomatic corps - representing some 80 countries - and Auschwitz survivors, and with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Prime Minister, Minister of Education Gideon Saar, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Holocaust survivor Ruth Bondy, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, Prof. Moshe Halbertal, Bild Editor Kai Diekmann, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum Director Dr. Piotr Cywinski, Historical Advisor to the exhibition Dr. Daniel Uziel, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev will address the participants.  A traveling version of the exhibition will open at the United Nations in New York in advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Latvia

The official day of commemoration for Holocaust victims in Latvia is 4 July. The choice of date commemorates the burning of the synagogue on Gogola Street in Riga in 1941, and the death of those victims that were locked inside the synagogue. The official commemoration event, which is attended by ambassadors and government officials, includes an opening address by the president of Latvia, followed by speeches by a high-ranking government official. A number of other groups and organisations are involved in the event, such as the museum "Jews in Latvia"; the Latvian Jewish Community; the Association of Latvian and Estonian Jews (based in Israel); the Jewish Survivors of Latvia (based in the US); the Center for Judaic Studies of the University of Latvia; Rabbis of the Riga Synagogue; the Riga Jewish School; the Latvian Jewish Religious Community Shamir; the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities" the Society for Research on Jewish Communities (Israel); the Latvian Council of Christians and Jews; the Latvian Academy of Sciences; and the Commission of the Historians of Latvia established under the auspices of the Latvian President.

Lithuania

Events to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2010 will take place in 13 cities throughout Lithuania. A conference about the meaning of the 27th of January is planned in Panevezys, organized by Panevezys Jewish Community. Another conference, "Kaunas' streets remember them" on Jewish historical and cultural heritage will take place in Public Institution Kaunas Julijanava Catholic Secondary School. The conference organizers are the teachers of the Tolerance Educational Centre established in this School. Among the other commemorative efforts throughout the country are theatrical performances, film showings, exhibitions and school events. See here for more information.

Luxembourg

Official national commemoration of the 'Journée de la Mémoire' in Luxembourg will take place on February 2, 2010 and will involve pupils of various secondary schools together with their teachers. In addition to this national event, the different secondary schools may themselves organize events for their pupils, such as visits to concentration camps, exhibitions and the theatre.

Norway

International Holocaust Memorial Day and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz will be commemorated on the 27 January 2010 in Norwegian schools, museums and at memorial sites throughout the country. Norway's Minister of Justice, Mr. Knut Storberget will address a commemorative event in Oslo, and other high level officials will address commemorative events at Falstad and Risør. In addition, Norway's Minister of Education, Ms. Kristin Halvorsen will present the annual Benjamin Prize to a school that has distinguished itself in working against racism and discrimination. The Prize was named the Bejamin Prize after a 15 year old Norwegian boy who was the victim of a racially motivated murder in 2001. A number of non-govermental organisations are also holding commemorative events throughout the country. Find out more about these here.

Poland

In order to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, international Ceremonies marking the 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau will be held at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and in Cracow. In attendance will be the President of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski; the Prime Minister of the Polish Government, Mr. Donald Tusk; numerous Members of the Polish Parliament; the Prime Minister of the Israeli Government, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu; high representatives of the Russian Federation (names to be announced); the President of the European Jewish Congress, Mr. Moshe Kantor; Chairman of the European Parliament, Mr. Jerzy Buzek; numerous Members of the European Parliament and Members of national parliaments of most European countries. The commemoration events will include a conference featuring ITF Member States' Ministers of Education. As usual, video footage of the ceremonies will be aired by all public and private television channels.

Romania

In order to commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day in Romania, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Jewish Community of Bucharest will organize together with the Chair in Hebrew Studies of the University of Bucharest a colloquium entitled "Holocaust: Memory for the Future", to be held at Bucharest's Great Synagogue, which serves as the Holocaust Museum of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania. The colloquium will be followed by Radu Gabrea's film "Gruber's Journey", an adaptation of Curzion Malaparte's book "Kaputt", which depicts the Iasi Pogrom of 1941. The Italian Cultural Institute will also organize a klezmer concert in Iasi and a piano concert in Cluj. The "Elie Wiesel" National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania will organize an exhibition of paintings produced in a special art camp held at Borsec in the summer of 2009 under an international project designed to promote the representation of the Holocaust in arts. Other events may be organized throughout the country by local authorities and NGOs.

Slovakia

In 2001 Slovakia designated 9 September as the national 'Memorial Day for Victims of the Holocaust and of Racial Violence'.  On this day in 1941, the so-called Jewish Code, consisting of 290 repressive laws, was passed, initiating the process of Jewish deportations which resulted in the killings of over 70,000 Slovak Jews. A number of commemoration events occur on or around this date, including an official wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial of the victims of the Holocaust in Bratislava, a minute of silence observed in schools and parliament, and other cultural and education events. The 27 January is also marked as an international day of remembrance, with statements by the ministry of foreign affairs, the awarding ceremony of Righteous Among the Nations, the attendance by high level Slovak officials at the commemoration ceremony at Auschwitz, and by various memorial events at Slovak diplomatic missions around the world.

Spain

In 2004 the Spanish Government instituted 27 January as the Official Day for Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity in Spain. The main annual commemorative event is at the Complutense University in Madrid, and attended by high-level politicians from several Ministries. Representatives of the main Spanish institutions participate in the ceremony, among them the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Organizations from the Jewish community and the Roma institutions, together with representatives of various embassies, also participate. In 2010 the official commemoration event will be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Education, Minister of Culture, and Secretary of State for Justice.  Although Jewish victims remain the focus of commemoration, other groups of victims will also be honored, such as Roma people, or Spanish deported people to Nazi concentration camps. Public institutional events will be organized by several Autonomous Regions (Madrid, Barcelona and Asturias among others) and also by local institutions. For the first time, a specific pedagogical DVD has been created to be shown in schools on 27 January. The central topic of official commemoration events this year will deal with Memorial Sites and the urgent need to preserve Auschwitz.  More precisely, it will insist on the correlation between the gradual disappearance of witnesses and the increase in significance of the Memorial Sites. One of the key speakers will be the Spanish Ombudsman, whose grandmother perished in Auschwitz. Information regarding the commemoration events of 27 January is available on the websites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and of Casa Sefarad-Israel.

Sweden

In order to mark International Holocaut Remembrance Day in Sweden an annual official ceremony, arranged by the Living History Forum, will be held at the Raoul Wallenberg Square, in the presence of the Ministers of Culture and Finance, members of State and political parties, foreign embassies, survivors and the public.  A specially produced exhibit on the Swedish persons decorated as Righteous Among the Nations will be shown at the square. A commemoration ceremony will also take place at the Parliament exclusively for members of Parliament. Throughout the country, ceremonies and programmes are being held at well over 70 sites, not including everything that goes on in schools. Most activities are arranged by members of the living history Forum´s special Holocaust Memorial-network.

Switzerland

International Holocaust Remembrance Day events have been planned by a number of non-governmental organizations in Switzerland. In Geneva, CICAD (Coordination intercommunautaire contre l'antisémitisme et la diffamation) have organized a ceremony honoring Holocaust survivors, entitled 'To feel the indescribable' (ressentir l'indicible) and including an exhibition opening and the screening of a documentary film. In Zurich the association TAMACH (Swiss Psychosocial Centre for Holocaust Survivors and their Families) has organized a ceremony to award the 'Dr. Bigler/Bergheimer-Preis' to the Association Contact point for Holocaust Survivors in Switzerland. Also in Zurich, school classes will meet two Holocaust survivors at the Swiss Archives of Contemporary History. A number of other remembrance events will be taking place in schools around the country.

United Kingdom

Hundreds of events are being planned to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2010 throughout the UK.  These events range from small, ceremonial events by ex-Service organisations, to large scale public events which are open to all.  The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust organises the official national commemoration event on 27 January, which will this year be taking place in The Guildhall in the City of London.  The event programme includes music, film, testimony and a challenge to join The Legacy of Hope - the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's theme for International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2010.  The event will be followed by a large scale candle lighting and short reception. International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2010 will also see a public programme of events taking place throughout London - this includes a workshop for young people, focussing on the story of Cambodian survivor Denise Affonco, a lecture on Liberation, dance performances and film showings. A further event is planned at the Imperial War Museum, which houses a permanent Holocaust exhibition. The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) has organised the launch of Tony Grenville's book, Jewish Refugees from Germany and Austria in Britain to coincide with Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be marked by a ceremony at Belsize Square synagogue, in North London.

United States of America

President Obama delivers remarks commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Birkenau in a taped message for the ceremony in Krakow, Poland, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The ceremony brought together Polish officials, Holocaust survivors, and European and world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. For a text version of the remarks see here.

*Update* Liaison Country: Serbia

In order to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day the Government of the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Serbia and numerous educational, artistic and scientific institutions and NGOs organized press conferences, commemorative ceremonies as well as different educational and artistic public events. For more information see here.

*Update*: Ukraine

The Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies under the support of the Embassy of Israel in Ukraine held on 27 January 2010 the annual roundtable meeting "Ukrainian Society and Holocaust Commemoration: Educational Perspective", devoted to the International Holocaust Commemoration Day marked annually according to the UN resolution #60/7. It was on this day in 1945 that the Soviet army liberated the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, located on Polish territories, where about one million Jews from all over Europe had been murdered. Among the participants of the commemoration meeting were teachers, students, pupils, scholars and journalists. The opening ceremony was attended by the Ambassadors or representatives of the Embassies of Israel, the USA, Germany, France, the UN Mission in Ukraine, as well as the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The broad range of topics discussed included issues and perspectives on Holocaust education and research in modern Ukraine, historical memory about the Holocaust, the place of the Holocaust and other tragedies of the 20th century in educational processes and state curricula.

For more on the history of Holocaust Remembrance Day, see a speech given by IHRA's Academic Advisor, Dina Porat, at the IHRA plenary meeting in December 2009.