From 9-12 March, Ambassador Sandro De Bernardin took part in high-level political meetings and commemorative events in Sofia. Ambassador De Bernardin, who will be IHRA Chair in 2018, was accompanied by Richelle Budd-Caplan (Israeli Delegation) and Olivia Marks-Woldman (UK Delegation) who are both members of the IHRA Steering Committee on Holocaust Memorial Days.
The IHRA has a strong focus on Holocaust Memorial Days, both as part of the IHRA grant strategy and as a specific internal programme. The IHRA believes that Holocaust remembrance is the responsibility of the whole society and aims to ensure that remembrance activities have the support of political leaders and governmental initiatives. The need for mainstream Holocaust remembrance was recognized by the international community through adopting the Stockholm Declaration in 2000, which states: "We share a commitment to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to honor those who stood against it. We will encourage appropriate forms of Holocaust remembrance, including an annual Day of Holocaust Remembrance, in our countries." In view of the importance of Holocaust remembrance, a roundtable on Holocaust Memorial Days with three IHRA Observer Countries was held in 2015 with the aim of profiling the concrete activities of IHRA Observer Countries and to understand of how the IHRA can support remembrance initiatives. The current visits are a follow-up to the roundtable of 2015.
On 9 March a roundtable was held on Holocaust remembrance and education with high level officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science, State Agency “Archives”, as well as members of the Bulgarian Delegation to the IHRA. The roundtable was followed by a visit to the Sofia History Museum and a cultural tour of Sofia hosted by Dr. Todor Chobanov, Deputy Mayor of Sofia. Richelle Budd-Caplan will hold a lecture on the Holocaust for young Bulgarian diplomats at the Diplomatic Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
On 10 March, the commemoration of the Day of the Salvation of the Bulgarian Jews and Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, the IHRA Delegation took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to the rescue of the Jews of Bulgaria. Following a meeting with the Minister of Education and Science of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Delegation travelled to the city of Lom to participate in a remembrance ceremony at the memorial of the deported Jews. The day ended with the lighting of candles during a Shabbat service at the Sofia Synagogue.
Ambassador De Bernardin was representing the current IHRA Chair, Ambassador Benno Bättig of Switzerland. Bulgaria is one of IHRA’s eleven Observer Countries and the Head of the Bulgarian Delegation to the IHRA is Ambassador Mihaylov.