Switzerland, which has been a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance since 2004, will take over chairmanship of the organisation in March 2017. The IHRA is currently chaired by Romania. International Holocaust Remembrance Day takes place on 27 January each year to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. This year, the future chair of the IHRA and FDFA secretary general, Benno Bättig, talked about what Switzerland will focus on during its chairmanship – education, youth and preserving the memory of Holocaust survivors.
Switzerland's chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in 2017
27 January marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust. The United Nations theme for this year’s remembrance day is ‘Educating for a Better Future’. Switzerland will assume chairmanship of the IHRA in 2017. It fully supports International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which serves as an important reminder about the universal lessons to be learned from the Holocaust – to respect human rights and join together in the fight against genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
In her message on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Swiss President Doris Leuthard stressed that Switzerland wants to use its chairmanship of the IHRA to ensure that the crimes committed by the Nazi regime against the Jews, Roma, Sinti and other minorities are never forgotten. This should also help build a bridge between the past and the present.
Projects and priorities of the Swiss chairmanship
Switzerland will take over chairmanship of the IHRA in March 2017 with FDFA secretary general, Ambassador Benno Bättig, as chair for one year. The IHRA aims to promote historical research and education about the Holocaust and to preserve the memory of victims through commemorations and memorials, especially in its 31 member countries.
In 2017, Switzerland will organise two IHRA plenary meetings, the first in Geneva (26-29 June) and the second in Bern (27-30 November). On 26 November, the University of Teacher Education Bern will host a conference about how people with disabilities were massacred by the Nazi regime. At the beginning of 2018, Holocaust study topics will be included at the University of Teacher Education Lausanne as part of the international study days on education.
The FDFA is also supporting a number of projects during Switzerland’s chairmanship. One of these is a multimedia application called ‘Fleeing the Holocaust’, which uses a number of tools to document the fates of four individuals. It is mainly aimed at young people and will be launched soon. The FDFA is also supporting the publication of a collection of Holocaust survivors’ testimonials and two mobile exhibitions – ‘The last Swiss Holocaust survivors’ photography exhibition and ‘The children of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp’, comprising educational materials on the subject. The German booklet ‘Memoiren von Holocaust-Überlebenden’ (Testimonials of Holocaust survivors) will also be published in French.
Speeches from Benno Bättig, future chair of the IHRA and FDFA secretary general, François Wisard, Head of History Unit of the FDFA and Prof. Ivan Lefkovits, Holocaust survivor and Editor of a series of Memoirs, Bern, 27.01.2017