2008 Holocaust Remembrance Activities around the world
The global network of United Nations information centres (UNICs), United Nations Information Service (UNIS) and United Nations Offices observed the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in 2008 in partnership with civil society groups and Government representatives.
Solemn ceremonies were held in Asmara, Asunción, Baku, Bogota, Bucharest, Geneva, Lima, Lusaka, Mexico City, Minsk, Panama City, Pretoria, Rio de Janeiro, Vienna, Washington, D.C. and Yaoundé. Many of these events were organized at the highest level of Government. For example, the National Congress of Paraguay, with support from UNIC Asunción and the Consulate General of Israel, hosted a commemorative event with Holocaust survivors and other dignitaries. UNIC Bucharest collaborated with the Ministry of Culture of Romania and the Elie Wiesel National Institute for Studying the Holocaust in Romania to organize a ceremony and memorial concert at the Odeon Theatre. UNIS Geneva, in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Israel, organized a ceremony at the Palais des Nations where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s video message was screened.
UNIC Rio de Janeiro, in partnership with the Israeli Federation of the State of Rio de Janeiro, organized an event that included the participation of the President and the First Lady of Brazil. UNIS Vienna marked the observance with Austrian officials, members of the diplomatic community, the Secretary-General of the Federal Association of the Jewish Religious Communities in Austria and the Chairman of the Ethnic Group Council for Roma at the Austrian Federal Chancellery. The United Nations Office in Belarus organized a ceremony that included the Deputy Commissioner on Religions and Minorities, the National Holocaust Foundation and the Union of Belarusian Jewish Associations and Communities.
UNIC Antananarivo held a video conference at the United Nations House for students, teachers and lawyers with the Mémorial de la Shoah, in Paris. In addition, the information centre organized a book fair and a performance by the United Nations Club on women’s rights. UNIC Bujumbura and the high school students of École Indépendante of Bujumbura held an event that began with a briefing on the history of the Jews and the United Nations outreach programme. The session was concluded with the screening of the video Les Justes (the Righteous).
UNIC Lima presented a lecture on the lessons of the Holocaust to young members of the Nikkei community in Peru and other countries, in the framework of the XI International Inter-Institutional Exchange.
UNIC Lomé organized a round-table discussion on the Holocaust with secondary school students, teachers, members of the UNESCO Club of the University of Lomé and journalists. The information centre also participated in a conference and exhibition at the University. In addition UNIC Lomé arranged the screening of eight films on the deportation and extermination of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.
UNIC Manila, in cooperation with the Israeli Consulate General and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, organized an essay writing contest on the Holocaust that fostered an understanding of the importance of respecting human rights and celebrating diversity. The winners participated in the International Youth Congress held at Yad Vashem. The information centre also partnered with the UNICEF Volunteers Organization at the Lyceum of the Philippines to hold a forum on the theme “Lessons of the Holocaust” for faculty and students of international studies. The film One Survivor Remembers, which tells the story of Gerda Weissmann Klein’s six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty, was also screened.
UNIC Prague and the Jewish Museum of Prague organized a series of eight workshops for high school students entitled “Remembering the Holocaust”. The programme included interactive games, discussions with Holocaust survivors and a film screening. In addition, the information centre opened an exhibition featuring posters from a campaign against racism, produced by the Museum.
UNIC Tokyo partnered with the Tokyo Holocaust Education Resource Centre to organize a workshop for 60 teachers and students on the story of Anne Frank. UNIC Yaoundé invited 158 students for a discussion on the lessons to be learned from the Holocaust and the screening of excerpts from two films, One Survivor Remembers and Les Justes.
The United Nations office in Armenia made a presentation on the Holocaust and genocide to high school students and their teachers, which led to discussions on discrimination, Holocaust denial and terrorism in the world today.
The United Nations office in Georgia, in cooperation with Andrea Benashvili Public School, organized a programme using the educational kit on teaching about the Holocaust, provided by the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation. The United Nations office in Ukraine, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education and Science and the Centre for Holocaust Studies, organized a public discussion entitled “Memory of the Holocaust and Ukrainian society: educational perspective”. The United Nations office in Uzbekistan organized a school essay competition in which students were asked to reflect upon the tragedy of the Holocaust and share their views on ways to prevent genocide today.
Exhibitions were mounted in Antananarivo, Asmara, Baku, Brazzaville, Buenos Aires, Bujumbura, Cape Town, Dakar, Geneva, Johannesburg, Ouagadougou, Prague, Tbilisi, Vienna, Warsaw and Yerevan. UNIC Dakar mounted a photo exhibition on its premises, which was visited by more than 300 students and teachers of secondary school over a two-week period. UNIS Geneva, with the support of the International Auschwitz Committee, mounted the exhibition entitled “Open Eyes”, which displays photographs of Auschwitz and texts written by young people from Poland and Germany. UNIC Warsaw and the Shalom Foundation organized an exhibition that featured the best posters from their 2007 poster competition, “Holocaust: Forever in our Memory”. The posters were displayed at the Jewish Theatre in Warsaw.
Several exhibitions formed a central part of the ceremony at UNIS Vienna. A reproduction of the postcard series by Holocaust victim Karl Schafranek was made available for the first time. The drawings were created at a labour camp in Eisenerz, Styria, Austria, in 1940 and were later smuggled out of the camp. An exhibit featuring the paintings of a survivor from Auschwitz-Birkenau, among others, was also mounted.
UNIC Buenos Aires lent its support to the exhibit on the theme “Righteous among the Nations”, opened by the delegation of Argentinean Israeli Associations. The exhibition highlighted the brave efforts of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust.
The United Nations offices in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia mounted the exhibit “To Bear Witness”, a collection of 20 black and white posters of photographs from the Yad Vashem archives. These posters illustrate the history of the Holocaust through a series of events, figures, places and concepts, including the rise of Nazism, the formation of the ghetto, deportation, the camps, the Warsaw Ghetto revolt and liberation of the camps.
Outreach to media organizations by the global network of United Nations information centres led to articles in the local press, radio and television in many countries, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Burundi, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Kenya, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States of America and Zimbabwe. Also, many information centres included special features on their websites, such as UNIS Geneva, UNRIC Brussels, UNICs Bogota, Buenos Aires, Bucharest, Lima, Lusaka, Mexico City and Warsaw and the United Nations office in Armenia. In addition, UNIC Mexico City provided information and audio feeds from Holocaust survivors living in Mexico and human rights experts for the production of a radio feature on Holocaust remembrance.
UNIC Antananarivo organized a briefing for journalists on the Holocaust, during which the National Information Officer shared her experience at the training seminar she participated in at Le Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. The journalists received information materials and the programme’s commemorative video entitled Remembrance and Beyond. UNIC Dakar held a similar briefing with the participation of the Ambassador of Israel to Senegal.
During the reporting period, the field offices distributed relevant information materials, posters, videos and press releases, including the message of the Secretary-General to Government officials, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the media, as well as to United Nations peace missions. The message of the Secretary-General was translated into the six official languages of the United Nations, as well as many local languages, including Armenian, Azeri, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Georgian, German, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian.