Promoting vibrant youth activism surrounding past victims of violence and creating a culture of remembrance is indispensable to upholding the truth of the Holocaust and countering distortion and misinformation. The Remembering Hilda Dajč Award recognizes invaluable contributions to meaningful collective remembrance that encourage social responsibility and a better future.
Established in 2022 as an independent civil society initiative, the award commemorates the 80th anniversary of the murder of 6500 Jewish prisoners of the concentration camp Staro Sajmiste in Belgrade. With Terraforming as one of its initiators, the award strengthens democratic values, human and civil rights, pluralism, and critical thinking in society.
This year, the award ceremony was held on 7 May in the ceremonial hall of the University Library “Svetozar Markovic” in Belgrade. Ambassadors of Austria, Canada, Israel, Germany, and Sweden attended and opened the ceremony with addresses to the audience. The ceremony recognized civil contributions to social remembrance in various categories. The ceremony presented awards for “Recognition for outstanding contribution to the culture of memory” and “Youth award for demonstrated civic responsibility and social awareness.”
The initiative aims to make the award a sustainable and established tradition for years to come to further encourage youth activism and strengthen cultures of remembrance.
Opening addresses at the award ceremony: Remembrance in times of rising intolerance and violence
The ceremony took place against the backdrop of two school shooting incidents, which left eight dead and many injured. The recent tragedies at the elementary school “Vladislav Ribnikar” in Belgrade and in Mladenovac make clear the importance of protecting and maintaining remembrance cultures based on empathy, solidarity, tolerance, and non-violence.
After Professor Dr. Aleksandar Jerkov, director of the University Library “Svetozar Marković,” welcomed the attendees, Miško Stanišić, IHRA delegate and director of Terraforming, opened the program by inviting the attendees to observe a minute of silence for the victims of the violence and bloodshed in Belgrade.
In his introductory remarks, Mr. Stanišić mentioned that the tragedy in Belgrade showed how necessary it was to value social contributions that publicly support and implement the values of tolerance and respect for human dignity.
“Our initiative draws attention to and recognizes those who should be role models in our society. As can be seen from the list of nominated candidates for this year’s awards, role models are those individuals who contribute to the strengthening and promoting of the values of tolerance, pluralism, and human dignity and directly provide help and support to young people,” Mr. Stanišić stressed.
The award ceremony underlines that by preserving victims’ memory, collective remembrance can restore the human dignity which was violently taken and ensure that such crimes are never repeated. The ceremony would mark the beginning of this effort, Mr. Stanišić said, by giving space to hardworking role models in civil society, and developing accountability.
Ambassador addresses at the ceremony: Remembering past victims of violence for a better future
In their addresses to the audience, the ambassadors of Germany, Israel, and Sweden emphasized efforts to create remembrance cultures. H.E Anke Konrad, the Ambassador of Germany, underlined the importance of preserving the memory of the victims of Nazism and how Hilda Dajč helps preserve democracy and pluralism against hatred and discord in society. “We congratulate all award winners and thank them for their tireless efforts,” said Ambassador Konrad. “Especially after the two tragedies that befell us last week and left us speechless, the work of the winners of this award gives us strength and courage.”
H.E. Jahel Wilan, the Ambassador of Israel, underlined the work invested in preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Referring to the recent tragic events, the ambassador emphasized that it is in these very difficult times that the international community becomes even more aware of the task to shape a just, free, and secure future with empathy and understanding.
The Ambassador of Sweden, H.E. Annika Ben David, also emphasized the importance of honoring the memory of Hilda Dajč on a day of national mourning. She mentioned how more than 20 years ago, Sweden initiated the creation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) to, which engages governments, experts, and civil society in preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, research, and education. Last year, Sweden held the Presidency of the alliance, and in cooperation with Terraforming, the Swedish embassy, and the Swedish IHRA Presidency, organized an international conference in Belgrade in February 2023, which deepened the cooperation of the two countries in preservation efforts.
Deputy Ambassador of Austria, Mrs. Karin Traunmiller, and Deputy Ambassador of Canada, Mr. David Morgan, also addressed the audience. The award nominees then gave brief presentations on their invaluable work before the award presentations.
Nominees and Awarding of Recognition
Nevena Bajalica, IHRA delegate and president of the award steering board, invited the award nominees on stage. Youth Radio was nominated for its podcast and radio show “What kind of country I want to live in,” and MentalHub was nominated for its initiative of offering free psychological counselling and psychotherapy for young people. Haver Serbia was nominated for placing the first “Stumbling Stones-Stolperstein” in Belgrade, and the Institute for the Improvement of Education and Training (ZUOV) was nominated for developing an online portal for teachers called “Culture of Remembrance in the Education System.” The students of XIV Belgrade High School, under the leadership of philosophy teacher Maja Kesnikov, also presented their work – a short film about Hilda Dajč.
MentalHub won the “The Youth Voice” category with a large majority of votes from the graduates of the XIV Belgrade gymnasium, who presented the award with their teacher Maja Kesnikov. The winner of the “Youth Award for Demonstrated Civic Responsibility and Social Awareness” was Youth Radio, which was presented by jury member Brankica Janković, commissioner for the protection of equality. Finally, jury member Professor Dr. Milena Dragičević-Šešić, presented the “Recognition for Outstanding Contribution to the Culture of Remembrance” to Haver Srbija, whose work has made a significant contribution to the culture of remembrance and the presentation of Jewish culture.