“We, the IHRA Member Countries, underline the importance of identifying, preserving, and making available archival material, testimonies and authentic sites for educational purposes, commemoration and research.”
– Article 10 of the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration
Preserving sites of the Holocaust and Roma genocide
Sites play a critical role in educating societies and future generations about the causes of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, and help encourage reflection on their consequences.
The IHRA has made the preservation of sites a key focus of its work for many years, regularly calling upon IHRA Member Countries to fulfill their obligations to mark, protect and research sites.
The IHRA has engaged with local communities to address concerns relating to, for example:
- Camp Komárom in Hungary
- Jasenovac in Croatia
- Staro Sajmiste in Serbia
- Lety u Pisku in the Czech Republic
- the former Vilnius ghetto library site in Lithuania
Work on sites is spearheaded by the experts in the Museums and Memorials Working Group (MMWG). The Chair of the MMWG is Elisabeth Ungureanu (Romania).
Uncovering sites of mass shootings
The IHRA also encourages research, dedication, and preservation of places where mass shootings took place. Often left deliberately unmarked by the perpetrators, many killing sites, where 25 to 30 percent of the victims of the Holocaust were murdered by mass shooting, have yet to be located. This, combined with a general lack of awareness of this important part of the history of the Holocaust, poses a major challenge to memorialization of the victims.
The IHRA’s expert committee dealing with this issue commissioned a report to assess the main challenges and obstacles to the preservation of killing sites, and held two international conferences to advance the issue further: one in Poland (2014) and another in Lithuania (2017). The conference in Krakow, Poland led to the publication of Killing Sites: Remembrance and Research in 2015.
Providing guidance for site preservation
Despite their importance to countering distortion and safeguarding the record, sites face considerable obstacles, from inappropriate reuse to outright demolition. The IHRA Project Safeguarding Sites is currently developing an IHRA Charter for best practice on how to mitigate these risks.
These guidelines will join the International Memorial Museums Charter and its addendum, which addresses the ethical considerations of memorial museums in how they portray victims of the Holocaust.