Introduction

“Democracy is fragile. And the only one who can protect it is everyone of us.”

 

It was with these words that Deborah Lipstadt closed a panel discussion on Holocaust distortion on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021. The panel, which was part of the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony held in cooperation with the IHRA and UNESCO, was one of many memorial ceremonies which took place in a digital format for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Lipstadt’s words were all the more poignant given the storming of the US Capital on 6 January and the protests against corona virus measures which were taking place around the world. In Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, and elsewhere protestors engaged in falsifications of the history of the Holocaust, donning yellow star badges reading “not vaccinated.”

Against the backdrop of these challenges and under the auspices of the Greek IHRA Presidency, I was pleased to see committed and creative responses from both the IHRA and the international community. Thanks to the tireless efforts of our experts, the IHRA launched a number of resources on countering Holocaust distortion in 2021, including an explainer film and a booklet providing real-world examples of distortion. These resources formed part of a toolkit designed to help policy and decision makers and civil society take steps towards recognizing and countering Holocaust distortion. In parallel, twelve IHRA grant projects were completed, increasing the capacity of non-governmental institutions to counter distortion and safeguard the record of the Holocaust.

In October, world leaders and international organizations met at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, hosted by the Government of Sweden, where attendees took concrete steps to promote Holocaust remembrance, and fight Holocaust distortion and antisemitism through a series of pledges. I was honored to represent the IHRA at the Forum where we pledged to develop guidelines on identifying Holocaust-related materials, to work with UNESCO to develop a training program on countering distortion, and to create recommendations for teaching and learning about the genocide of the Roma.

Kathrin Meyer edited

In March 2022, the Presidency of the IHRA passed into the hands of Sweden, who are committed to supporting countries in honoring the pledges made in Malmö. I look forward to working together with Sweden, our experts and our Member Countries to identify common challenges, share best practices, and develop practical solutions to empower all of us to protect the values at the heart of our democracies.

Signature KathrinDr. Kathrin MeyerIHRA Secretary General

Timeline

  1. Credit: European Commission

    8 January 2021

    The “Handbook for the Practical Use of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism” is published by the European Commission, in cooperation with the 2020 German Presidency of the IHRA. This Handbook shows how the working definition has been applied in the EU and the United Kingdom by governments and members of civil society. IHRA experts Mark Weitzman, 2020 Chair of the Museums and Memorials Working Group; Juliane Wetzel, 2021 Chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial; and Robert Williams, 2020 Chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, review and also contribute to the project.

    January 8, 2021
  2. Credit: IHRA

    19 January 2021

    “Recognizing and Countering Holocaust Distortion: Recommendations for Policy and Decision Makers”, published in partnership with UNESCO, is launched. A virtual event for IHRA delegates and special guests is held where experts, Heads of Delegation and representatives of the IHRA’s Permanent International Partners discuss the challenges of addressing Holocaust distortion, focusing on ways the Recommendations will be implemented.

    January 19, 2021
  3. Credit: IHRA

    25 January 2021

    The IHRA, together with the European Commission, the United Nations, and UNESCO, launch the global campaign Protect the Facts. This initiative seeks to raise awareness of the importance of recognizing and countering Holocaust distortion among policymakers, Holocaust-related institutions, civil society, and the general public.

    #ProtectTheFacts and #SayNoToDistortion

    January 25, 2021
  4. Credit: IHRA

    27 January 2021

    The IHRA, the United Nations and UNESCO commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, reflecting upon the history and its enduring legacy. Chancellor Angela Merkel gives the keynote address at the UN General Assembly-mandated commemoration ceremony to mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, organized by the United Nations and UNESCO in cooperation with the IHRA on 27 January 2021. UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay also pay tribute to the victims of Nazi persecution in the online ceremony.

    The ceremony is followed by an online panel discussion on Holocaust denial and distortion with the participation of Robert Williams, the 2020 Chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, Vice-President of the International Auschwitz Committee Marian Turski, Kindertransport survivor Hella Pick, historian Deborah Lipstadt and author Philippe Sands. CNN, the IHRA's media partner for this panel discussion, streams this important event and CNN anchor Hala Gorani moderates the discussion.

    Around the world, digital commemoration events are organized in honor of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

    January 27, 2021
  5. 25 March 2021

    The IHRA, together with the Auschwitz Institute for Genocide Prevention, screen the documentary "The Lesson" by Elena Horn. A panel discussion follows on the issues facing Holocaust education and highlighting IHRA’s Recommendations on Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust.

    March 25, 2021
  6. Ambassador Küchler, Chair of the 2020 Presidency of the IHRA.

    31 March 2021

    Germany’s Federal Cabinet adopts the IHRA’s nonbinding working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination, making Germany the first country to do so at the national level. Austria and the Republic of North Macedonia follow Germany in adopting the working definition.

    March 31, 2021
  7. IHRA Chair Ambassador Chris Lazaris
    Credit: Greek IHRA Presidency

    1 April 2021

    Greece takes over the Presidency of the IHRA from Germany.

    “The thread running through this Presidency will be teaching about the Holocaust, including combatting denial and distortion in the new fields now opened by the net,” says incoming IHRA Chair Ambassador Chris Lazaris in his address to the IHRA’s delegates.

    April 1, 2021
  8. Untold Stories of the Holocaust from the Corners of Europe
    Credit: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

    May 2021

    The IHRA selects seven initiatives as 2021 IHRA Grant Projects representing innovative approaches to countering distortion and safeguarding the record of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma. IHRA Grant Projects address these issues in ways that foster international cooperation and strengthen institutional networks. They are therefore integral to how the IHRA approaches these fundamental aspects of its mandate, reinforcing its commitment to the Stockholm Declaration and the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration.

    May, 2021
  9. IHRA Chair Ambassador Chris Lazaris addresses delegates from Athens
    Credit: IHRA

    June 2021

    The IHRA successfully concludes its first plenary meetings under the Greek Presidency, guided by the priorities of advancing Holocaust education and countering Holocaust distortion. Hosted online from Athens, over 250 experts, political representatives, and representatives of civil society meet over two weeks to discuss the latest developments in the field of education, remembrance, and research of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma.

    Read the Summary Report from the Athens Plenary.

    June, 2021
  10. Gilly Carr addresses the local community on Alderney.
    Credit: IHRA

    7 – 9 July 2021

    From 7–9 July 2021, Alderney's President William Tate hosts a delegation comprising Eric Pickles, Head of the UK Delegation to the IHRA; Gilly Carr, member of the UK delegation to the IHRA and Chair of the IHRA’s Safeguarding Sites Project; and Sally Sealey, Deputy Head of the UK Delegation to the IHRA.

    This trip follows up on a visit to the island in September 2019 in which the team assessed the risks facing former Nazi camps on the Channel Island—four labor camps (Borkum, Norderney, Helgoland, and Lager Sylt) and the burial sites on Longis Common—and began discussing steps that could be taken to address them including eight recommendations to safeguard sites on Alderney.

    July 7–9, 2021
  11. Participants in the seminar “Dikh he Na Bister” at the youth commemoration at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial in 2014. Courtesy of Ternype.

    2 August 2021

    2 August marks Roma Genocide Remembrance Day, the night when thousands of Roma women, men and children were murdered by the SS during the “liquidation” of the so-called “family camp” for Roma at Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944.

    Commemoration events take place throughout Member Countries.

    August 2, 2021
  12. Safeguarding Sites team with Barbara Glück, Director of Mauthausen Memorial, at the site of the Gusen former concentration camp.
    Credit: IHRA

    7 September 2021

    The Safeguarding Sites project team visits three sites in Austria as part of their project to develop a Charter of best practice for site management and preservation of sites of the Holocaust and genocide of the Roma.

    The visit to Austria follows a 2019 visit to the island of Alderney in the Channel Islands. Visits to Kaunas in Lithuania and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland are planned for 2022.

    September 7, 2021
  13. Acting Head of Delegation – Minister of Dispora Affairs Nachman Shai, High Representative for United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Miguel Ángel Moratinos and Dr Kathrin Meyer, Secretariat of IHRA.
    Credit: Mikael Sjöberg/Government offices of Sweden

    13 October 2021

    The IHRA joins world leaders, and international organizations at the Remember – ReAct Forum, Malmö, hosted by the Government of Sweden, where attendees take concrete steps to promote Holocaust remembrance, and fight Holocaust distortion and antisemitism through a series of pledges.

    Representatives from 50 countries are joined by social media companies, policymakers, NGOs and civil society organizations to agree to enhance Holocaust remembrance and education at a time when antisemitism, anti-Roma racism and other forms of discrimination are on the rise.

    October 13, 2021
  14. 8 November 2021

    On 8 November, the IHRA presents the twelve-minute explanatory film Holocaust Distortion: A Growing Threat and the publication Holocaust Distortion: Contexts, Influences, and Examples in its webinar on Holocaust distortion.

    These two new resources will further and contribute to the ongoing struggle against the increasingly dangerous phenomenon of Holocaust distortion.

    November 8, 2021
  15. 9 November 2021

    The November pogroms, also known as Kristallnacht, were a series of attacks against Jews throughout Germany and parts of Austria on 9-10 November 1938. During the pogrom, 91 Jews were murdered, thousands of synagogues across Germany and Austria were torched, and Jewish-owned shops and businesses were plundered and destroyed. In addition, Jews were forced to pay “compensation” for the damage that had been caused, and approximately 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

    To commemorate the devastation of the November pogroms, events are held in many IHRA Member Countries.

    November 9, 2021
  16. 2021 IHRA Chair, Ambassador Chris J. Lazaris
    Credit: IHRA

    10 November 2021

    Under the Greek Presidency, the IHRA successfully concludes its second set of plenary meetings.

    Held on the anniversary of the 1938 November Pogroms, the meetings focus on countering Holocaust distortion, facilitating access to Holocaust collections, and growing the IHRA membership. Originally due to be hosted in Thessaloniki, the meetings are held virtually, and bring together over 250 experts, members of civil society and political representatives from around the world to learn about innovative ways to advance education, remembrance and research of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, as well as recent developments in the field.

    Read the summary report of the Thessaloniki Plenary.

    November 10, 2021
  17. IHRA Secretary General Kathrin Meyer speaks at the Global Conference on Football’s Role in Combating Antisemitism
    Credit: IHRA

    11 November 2021

    The Global Conference on Football’s Role in Combating Antisemitism, held on 11 November, sees the adoption of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism by FK Austria Wien. IHRA Secretary General Kathrin Meyer gives a keynote address at the event, discussing the major impact that football clubs have had on the fight against antisemitism, and how they can continue to help by, for example, raising awareness of Holocaust distortion.

    November 11, 2021
  18. The Stone Flower monument rises from the marshland of the former Jacenovac concentration camp.
    Credit: Jasenovac Memorial Site

    15 – 17 December 2021

    The Jasenovac camp complex was a major site of mass killings of Serbs, Jews, Roma and Sinti, and opponents of the criminal policies of the fascist Ustaša regime during the Second World War.

    Co-funded by the IHRA, the conference Jasenovac Past and Present: History and Memory of Institutionalized Destruction revisits long-standing historical controversies and presents new research findings, while also gaining a better understanding of how the memory of the camp has changed over time, and how it has impacted present-day societies in Serbia, Croatia, and other parts of the former Yugoslavia.

    December 15-17, 2021
  19. 27 January 2022

    On 27 January 2022, the IHRA partners with Chelsea Football Club – the first sports club in the world to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism – to launch a campaign about why remembering the Holocaust is so important.

    The campaign calls for individuals, organizations, and football clubs to post about their reasons for remembering the Holocaust, both personal and shared, using #WhyWeRemember.

    Watch the message by IHRA Secretary General Kathrin Meyer. Watch some of the messages we received on the IHRA's Twitter account.

    January 27, 2022
  20. Credit: IHRA Greek Presidency

    25 – 26 February 2022

    The Secretary General for Religious Affairs of the Greek Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and His Eminence Metropolitan of Messinia host an international conference with the support of the U.S. Mission in Greece and the Fulbright Foundation Greece on Holocaust, Genocides, and Mass Atrocities: Remembering the Past to Safeguard the Future.

    The keynote speech was held by IHRA delegate Mark Weitzman, entitled “Why the Past Matters: The Holocaust and the Struggle over History in a Fractured World”.

    February 25–26, 2022
  21. 1 March 2022

    Sweden assumes the Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) from Greece. Sweden's Presidency follows the successful Greek Presidency, which saw the advancement of Holocaust education around the world and strengthened efforts to combat antisemitism, especially online.

    Watch a video reflecting on the Greek Presidency and a video outlining the priorities of the Swedish Presidency.

    March 1, 2022
  22. Credit: Yad Vashem

    23 March 2022

    On 23 March, the IHRA holds a Zoom Webinar launching the recently adopted IHRA Guidelines for Identifying Relevant Documentation for Holocaust Research, Education and Remembrance.

    Access to Holocaust-related material helps societies deal openly and accurately with the past. Unfortunately, many obstacles stand in the way of open access. The IHRA’s Guidelines help archives and researchers change that.

    Learn more about uncovering stories from the archive
    .

    March 23, 2022

Statistics


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Decisions and Highlights

  • Highlight

    Even though the 2021 plenaries were held online rather than in beautiful Greece, members of the Education Working Group actively engaged with the sessions. It was wonderful to see how the Recommendations for Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust have been used in transcontinental collaborations. Three teachers from Israel, the United States, and Greece shared their experiences and practical applications of the Recommendations. It was important to see what a tremendous impact these Recommendations are having in a global setting. These valuable teaching resources have now been translated into 21 languages, including Arabic.

    SUE HAMPEL, CHAIR OF THE EDUCATION WORKING GROUP
  • Decision: Observer Application

    The Plenary decided to approve the application for Observer Country status from Cyprus. - ATHENS PLENARY, JUNE 2021

  • Decision: Presidency Candidacy

    The Plenary decided to endorse the United Kingdom’s candidacy for the IHRA Presidency in 2024. - ATHENS PLENARY, JUNE 2021

  • Highlight

    In 2021, I had the honor to chair the Museums and Memorials Working Group. It was a very enriching responsibility and I learned a lot by working closely with delegates from the Working Group who represent a range of prestigious institutions. I also had the chance to gain a better understanding of the “behind the scenes” work that is carried out by the small but professional team at the Permanent Office to ensure that experts have the best working environment to fulfill their commitment to fight distortion and safeguard the record.

    YESSICA SAN ROMAN, CHAIR OF THE MUSEUMS AND MEMORIALS WORKING GROUP
  • Decision: Working Group and Committee Chairs 2022

    The Plenary decided to confirm the Working Group Chairs for 2022:

    • Academic Working Group: Nanci Adler (Netherlands)
    • Education Working Group: Jody Spiegel (Canada)
    • Museums and Memorials Working Group: Elisabeth Ungureanu (Romania)
    • Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial: Juliane Wetzel (Germany)
    • Committee on the Genocide of the Roma: Paul Hagouel (Greece)
    • Committee on the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity:
       Donna-Lee Frieze (Australia)

    - ATHENS PLENARY, JUNE 2021

  • Highlight

    During the Greek Presidency of the IHRA and the Covid-19 pandemic, we were dependent on digital technology. Among essential highlights were the continuous efforts to implement the working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination and the proposal for the IHRA to create recommendations for teaching and learning about the genocide of the Roma. Also tremendously important was my cooperation in the IHRA grant project “Countering Distortion of the Genocide of the Roma in Southeastern Europe – A Key Element for Developing Anti-Racism Strategies and Anti-Discrimination Policies and Practices,” as a national expert for the case study of Slovenia.

    ALENKA JANKO SPREIZER, CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE GENOCIDE OF THE ROMA
  • Decision: Grant Program

    The Plenary decided to:

    a. Pause funding under the grant program in 2022, in order to review the impact of grants funded from 2010 until 2020 and to identify suitable new directions for future grant cycles.

    b. Undertake this review with the help of an external evaluator and include consultations with IHRA’s experts in Working Groups and Committees.

    - ATHENS PLENARY, JUNE 2021

  • Decision: Teaching and Learning about the Genocide of the Roma

    The Plenary decided to task the Committee on the Genocide of the Roma to develop Recommendations for teaching and learning about the genocide of the Roma. - ATHENS PLENARY, JUNE 2021

  • Highlight

    For me, the IHRA’s most meaningful endeavors in 2021 were its short film on Holocaust distortion, the development of recommendations for Holocaust distortion for policy and decisionmakers, and the publication which provides an overview of what Holocaust distortion is. The pandemic and the demonstrations against the state corona virus measures showed us how necessary it is to sensitize people to the trivialization of the Holocaust, which is an insult to the victims and misuses their fate.

    JULIANE WETZEL, CHAIR OF THE COMMITTEE ON ANTISEMITISM AND HOLOCAUST DENIAL
  • Decision: IHRA Chair's Statement

    The Plenary decided to support the IHRA Chair’s Statement on recent antisemitic violence and hate speech with a preamble.

    "We call on the relevant authorities to ensure the protection of Jews and of Jewish places of worship against violence and hate speech."

    - ATHENS PLENARY, JUNE 2021

  • Highlight

    Beginning to travel again in 2021 meant that the Safeguarding Sites team could visit the former concentration camps of Mauthausen, Gusen, and Gunskirchen in Austria. This enabled important refinements to the IHRA Charter, a set of heritage guidelines for safeguarding historic Holocaust sites across Europe, due to be completed in 2024. The in-person visit was vital for eradicating our naivety and idealism, and allowed us to appreciate the reality of changes that have impacted these sites over the last 77 years. We are reminded that we are not dealing with places frozen in time since 1945.

    GILLY CARR, PROJECT CHAIR, SAFEGUARDING SITES
  • Decision: Membership Application

    The Plenary decided to approve the application for Member Country status from the Republic of North Macedonia. - THESSALONIKI PLENARY, NOVEMBER 2021

  • Decision: Observer Application

    The Plenary decided to approve the application for Observer Country status from Brazil. - THESSALONIKI PLENARY, NOVEMBER 2021

  • Highlight

    For decades, a significant amount of the documentation bearing on the Holocaust and its historical context has been scattered, endangered, and in many cases made inaccessible. My personal highlight in 2021 was the launch of the IHRA Guidelines on Identifying Relevant Documentation for Holocaust Research, Education and Remembrance. The IHRA is the perfect forum to have conceptualized and adopted these guidelines as it brings together experts and governmental representatives – both of whom have vital roles to play in preserving and uncovering the stories hidden in the archives.

    HAIM GERTNER, PROJECT CHAIR, GUIDELINES FOR IDENTIFYING RELEVANT DOCUMENTATION FOR HOLOCAUST RESEARCH, EDUCATION AND REMEMBRANCEPhoto courtesy of Yad Vashem
  • Decision: Working Group and Committee Chairs 2023

    The Plenary decided to confirm the committee chairs for 2023:

    • Museums and Memorials Working Group: Simonetta Della Setta (Italy)
    • Committee on the Genocide of the Roma: Anna Miskova (Czech Republic)
    • Committee on the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes against Humanity: Vassiliki Keramida (Greece)

    - THESSALONIKI PLENARY, NOVEMBER 2021

  • Highlight

    The most meaningful development in 2021 relating to the IHRA's mission for “a world without genocide” was the cooperation between the IHRA and the Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMC). GAAMAC is a platform for exchange, dialogue and dissemination of learning and good practice on genocide prevention. The IHRA's Committee on the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes against Humanity participated in GAAMAC's fourth Global Meeting in November 2021 and laid the foundation for fruitful future cooperation.

    WICHERT TEN HAVE, ADVISOR TO THE IHRA
  • Decision: Archival Access

    The Plenary decided to adopt the Guidelines for Identifying Relevant Documentation for Holocaust Research, Education and Remembrance, as circulated on 2 November 2021. These Guidelines will be used in accordance with national, EU, and/or international law. - THESSALONIKI PLENARY, NOVEMBER 2021


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In Memoriam

Ambassador Thomas Michael Baier
Born in Vienna on 8 May, 1950, Michael studied Law at the University of Vienna and joined the Austrian Foreign Ministry in 1975. His career postings were in Rome, Baghdad, Sofia, and Geneva. Since 1997, he served as Austrian Ambassador to Ethiopia, Algeria, and North Macedonia. In between these postings, when Austria held the Presidency of the IHRA in 2008, he became a highly valued IHRA delegate. After his retirement in October 2015, the Austrian Foreign Ministry appointed him as Special Envoy to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an organization which he passionately believed in. Michael substantially contributed to raising awareness of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research within the Austrian Foreign Ministry and beyond.

In Memoriam

Ambassador Tom Vraalsen
Ambassador Tom Vraalsen, IHRA Chair during the Norwegian Presidency 2009-2010, passed away on 13 September 2021 at the age of 85. Educated at Aarhus University in Denmark, Tom Vraalsen joined the Norwegian Foreign Ministry in 1960. He was appointed Minister of International Development and of Nordic Cooperation from 1989 to 1990 and went on to serve as Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Norway to the United Nations before taking up postings as Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the United States, and Finland, and as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for Sudan.

Coming up

2022

MAY

Seminar on the opening of the Swedish Holocaust Museum, Washington, 16 May

JUNE

Safeguarding Sites project team visit to Vilnius and Kaunas, 1 – 6 June

JUNE

Stockholm Plenary meetings, 20 – 23 June

AUGUST

Safeguarding Sites project team visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 28 – 31 August

MAY

Guidelines for Identifying Relevant Documentation for Holocaust Research, Education and Remembrance presented at International Council on Archives conference, Rome, 23 May

JUNE

Teacher conference: Teaching and learning about the Holocaust and antisemitism, Stockholm, 13 June

NOVEMBER

Gothenburg Plenary meetings,
28 November – 1 December

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