UNESCO hosts ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Seventy years ago on 27 January, the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – a UNESCO World Heritage Site was liberated. In partnership with the Shoah Memorial and France Culture, UNESCO commemorated the International Day of Holocaust Remembrance at its Paris Headquarters .

In her speech for the commemoration event, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said, “70 years after the worst crimes in history, anti-Semitism is returning, along with Holocaust denial and revisionism.” Prticipants of the ceremony included Bernard Cazeneuve, French Minister of the Interior; Christiane Taubira, French Minister of Justice ;  Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland ; Katia Todorova, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of the Bulgarian National Commission for UNESCO; Yossi Gal, Ambassador of Israel in France and Permanent Delegate Ambassador of Israel at UNESCO; and Eric de Rothschild, President of the Shoah Memorial.

Participants then watched a live transmission of the official ceremony for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. In a solemn atmosphere, Bronisław Komorowski, President of Poland, reminded everyone that they were standing “at the place where our civility ended, where the human being was reduced to a small tattooed figurine, where the Nazi ideology shook the pillars of our humanity”.

A roundtable on the theme of “Culture, Remembrance and Transmission” followed, and was moderated by Sandrine Treiner, Deputy-Director of France Culture, with the participation of writer and critic Daniel Mendelsohn, Israeli writer Uri Orlev, as well as Belgian journalist and comic book publisher Didier Pasamonik. The roundtable examined the challenges of passing on the history and memory of the genocide, more than three generations after it took place.

To help transmit this memory, UNESCO is determined to put the full force of its mandate in education, teacher training and the dissemination of content adapted to every media and every audience. “Education on the history of the Holocaust must enable young people all over the world to protect themselves from hate speech, racism and anti-Semitism and to not be misled by the many guises they take today,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, in her official message for the Day. The more removed this tragedy becomes from us in time, and as the survivors pass on, the greater the need to teach the meaning of this history for the present.

The Director-General called on all to reaffirm, more than ever, UNESCO’s founding credo: "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”. Education is a key front in this struggle and this is where UNESCO’s unique contribution lays, through work for youth, training of teachers and curriculum design.