Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, 27 January 2011
More than 65 years after the Second World War, Holocaust remembrance is still a relevant issue. Better knowledge of the phenomenon increases rather than dispels fear.
The establishment in the heart of Europe of an industrial-style system of death and methodical dehumanization is of universal significance: it affects the whole of humanity. The Holocaust was both a unique and paradigmatic event that helps us to understand other historical genocides and other atrocities worldwide that originate in racism and hatred. Remembrance works to give a powerful boost to peace and mutual understanding, as borne out most aptly by the inclusion of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1979.
This year, the United Nations has chosen to highlight the courage of Holocaust women and aims to shed light on the exemplary lives of those who combated such barbarism, from Irène Némirovsky to Germaine Tillion, from Anne Frank to Simone Veil. Two exhibitions will be held at UNESCO Headquarters in partnership with the Shoah Memorial from 24 January to 1 February 2011; one will be dedicated to Hélène Berr’s diary, a unique first-hand account by a young French woman brutally cast out of society.
In addition to paying tribute to the victims, the duty of history is a matter for all people alive. Holocaust remembrance and the indignation that it arouses must be kept alive by historical knowledge, since fabricated facts can always pour into gaps in our knowledge.
The research work entailed goes hand in hand with the duty of education and is often a difficult task because the right balance must be struck between emotion and analysis, and it must be adapted to the audience and the questions pondered. Each day, men and women, educators and teachers work on and think about conveying knowledge of these historical events to young people. UNESCO supports the community of researchers and teachers worldwide by taking part in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, in educational workshops held by the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network and through the education programme on holocaust remembrance and tolerance. We contribute to the production of learning materials such as the handbook for teachers in sub-Saharan Africa. UNESCO also sponsors ALADDIN, a cultural project launched in March 2009 in conjunction with the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah to counter all forms of negationism and to promote intercultural dialogue, particularly between Jews and Muslims.
For 65 years now, UNESCO has endeavoured to build peace in the minds of men and women through cooperation in the fields of education, the sciences, culture, communication and information. World Heritage sites encapsulate the knowledge of the world’s peoples, while human rights education is a practical tool for combating intolerance, as is the Coalition of Cities against Racism. In parallel with its outreach work for teachers, UNESCO undertakes in its programmes throughout the world to promote within the general public respect for cultural diversity, the protection of human dignity and the rejection of all forms of racism.