Building peace in the minds of men and women

Irina Bokova pays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust at the Shoah Memorial

Tuesday, January 27, 2014 - The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, attended the ceremony honoring the victims of the Holocaust led by François Hollande, President of the French Republic, in the presence of Eric de Rothschild, Chairman of the Memorial of the Shoah, and more than one hundred survivors of the Nazi camps. The ceremony was organized in the framework of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, celebrated every year on 27 January, to mark the day of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army, 70 years ago.

The Director-General met with several members of the Government as well as the President of the Shoah Memorial to discuss the actions required to take further forward education about the Holocaust. In this context, Irina Bokova underlined the role of UNESCO in this field, and its unique programme within the United Nations, on teacher training, the drafting  of manuals and guidelines for the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 

In his speech, the President of the French Republic reiterated the duty of remembrance and history and the need to fight the return of barbarism through knowledge and understanding, as well as through education and the media.  Facing the rise of anti-Semitism in France and the world, the French President pointed to several angles of action: starting with security, first and foremost, followed by the duty of transmission and education and, lastly, digital literacy in the use of media and the fight against radicalization on the Internet.

"The lesson of the righteous is that there is always another way -- it is always possible to refuse to cry with the hordes, and that the individual alone is not without power and duties ", he added.

In the Guest Book of the Memorial, the Director-General recalled the inextricable bonds between UNESCO and remembrance of the Holocaust: "UNESCO was created in reaction to the horror of the Nazi crimes. 70 years after liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the transmission of the history of the Holocaust is vital for stemming hatred and defending human rights. On this day, with the Shoah Memorial, we reaffirm our commitment to fight against barbarism and to promote human dignity through education."

In the framework of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, UNESCO is organizing a series of events, roundtables and exhibitions, running over the course of the week -- from the premiere screening of the documentary of William Karel, “Annihilation, the Destruction of Europe's Jews” to a concert by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra. The commemoration draws on the extensive programme of activities carried out for many years by UNESCO to disseminate Holocaust education across the world, which is also a way to fight against the resurgence of anti-Semitism today. In 2015, UNESCO will launch, in partnership with the European Commission, a new study on the teaching of the Holocaust in EU countries, and with the Aladdin Project, a series of international conferences in Asia and Africa on the Prevention of Genocide.