The strategy framework agreed at the IHRA plenary meeting in Geneva in June 2017 is the first of its kind. At the second plenary meeting under the Swiss chairmanship, this time in Bern, the delegates of the 31 member states defined the priorities for the strategy’s implementation in the coming years. These concern the preservation and protection of places and documents associated with and about the Holocaust. The Alliance also decided to fight not only the denial of the Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi regime but also the distortion of it. “The definition of these priorities is an important step for the IHRA,” says Ambassador Benno Bättig, the current IHRA chair. “If one focuses on fewer issues, while taking a shared and coordinated approach, the IHRA’s work will be more effective overall.” For this reason it is important, according to the strategy in June, also to set out how the strategy ought to be implemented in concrete terms. “I am somewhat proud that it has been possible to achieve this focus on specific issues under the Swiss chairmanship of the IHRA,” Mr Bättig said.
The members conducted numerous discussions about the priorities that the IHRA should adopt ahead of the decision at the plenary meeting both at a preparatory meeting at the end of October in Zurich and at the various workshops during the four-day plenary meeting in Bern. This outcome document, which sets out clear priorities, enables Switzerland and those countries that will chair the IHRA in the future to prepare concrete projects.
The IHRA is an intergovernmental organisation, currently with 31 member states. Under the Swiss chairmanship, Bulgaria and Australia have made an important step towards full membership in the near future. The IHRA’s institutional partners include the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the OSCE, UNESCO, the Conference for Material Claims against Germany, and the International Tracing Service. Switzerland has been a member of the IHRA since 2004.
The Swiss chairmanship also took the opportunity of the plenary meeting in Bern to organise an event to launch the interactive educational app ‘Fliehen vor dem Holocaust’ (Escaping the Holocaust) and to present a new publication about the action of Carl Lutz. During the Second World War, Lutz, who was vice-consul at the Swiss legation in Budapest, together with other members of the legation, helped to save the lives of tens of thousands of Jews between 1944 and 1945. In the new book, entitled ‘Under Swiss Protection’, Carl Lutz’s action is retraced on the basis of eye-witness accounts.
In January 2018 Switzerland will also organise an international conference within the framework of the international seminars on education at the University of Teacher Education in Lausanne, specifically devoted to information and education about the Holocaust.
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