The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme organizes a series of interactive roundtable discussions designed to promote awareness of the lessons of the Holocaust and their implications for combating genocide today. By examining best practices to fight hatred, racism and Holocaust denial, the discussions aimed to mobilize civil society and the international community to help prevent mass violence.
DPI, France and the Russian Federation
observe "Kristallnacht" at New York Headquarters
(7 & 8 November 2012)
One of the ways in which the Department of Public Information (DPI) increases the impact of its outreach programmes is to partner with UN Member States. By working together on issues of common concern, such as combatting hatred and promoting human rights, the Organization can reach more people with a unified message.
Last week, the Department and the Permanent Missions of France and the Russian Federation to the United Nations observed the 74th anniversary of “Kristallnacht”, which many historians consider to be the beginning of the Holocaust.
“Kristallnacht”, also known as the night of broken glass, was a pogrom or series of attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in Germany and parts of Austria that took place on 9 and 10 November 1938. Thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps or murdered on the spot.
To mark the historic event, on 7 November The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme presented a panel discussion titled “The Holocaust by Bullets: Uncovering the Reality of Genocide”. Held in the ECOSOC Chamber at United Nations Headquarters, the event focused on the groundbreaking work of Father Patrick Desbois and his team of researchers from Yahad-In Unum (YIU) who in recent years have identified over 800 extermination sites in Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine. Their work has helped countless families understand what happened to their loved ones.
“Our goal is three-fold: I want to give back to the families, give back to the Jewish community, and fight against those that deny the Holocaust”, explained Father Desbois in response to a question about the impact of his work. “The deniers are a strong influence on young people.”
In his opening remarks, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General of Communications and Public Information, underscored the importance of Yahad-In Unum’s work in restoring dignity to the victims. "I commend Father Desbois and Yahad-In Unum for their tireless efforts to recover the dignity of the Jewish and Roma victims of this brutality. By identifying their unmarked mass graves, you have set history on its proper course. No longer will these mothers, fathers and children remain forgotten. No longer silent, their bodies will remain testimony to the truth".
Ambassador Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France, reminded participants of the dangers of hate. “It is especially important for France to be present here today because our country experienced a tragedy this year”, said the French ambassador. “We must show no weakness in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and terrorism and we must break these destructive cycles as swiftly as possible.”
Also participating in the event were Andrej Umansky, a historian at Yahad-In Unum; and Gillian Kitley, Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, who touched on the historical aspects of the Holocaust, and the role of the international community in preventing genocide. The discussion was moderated by Pamela Falk of CBS News.
The event can be viewed here on webcast.
On 8 November 2012, the Department's Holocaust Programme partnered with the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in a second event which examined the Holocaust in the German-occupied Soviet territory and the status of Holocaust education in Russia today.
Moderated by Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Public Engagement of the Department’s Outreach Division, the event featured the work of Professor Ilya Altman, who was instrumental in introducing the Holocaust in curricula in Russia in the early 1990s. Until that time, little had been written about Nazi crimes in the former Soviet Union.
In his remarks, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation Sergey N. Karev explained how Professor Altman and his team have helped demystify the horrors of the Second World War.
“As you know, the Russian Mission to the UN is one of the co-organizers of today's discussion, devoted to the study of little-known pages of the horrors of World War II in the former Soviet Union, which was occupied by Nazi troops. For our country, which lost in the years of the war, more than 20 million of its citizens, it is also a matter of honour and duty. It is our common duty to those who gave their lives for the triumph of the ideals of peace, humanity, human rights and dignity", he told participants.
Marking anniversary of Kristallnacht Pogrom,
UN holds discussions with renowned historians
[UN News Centre] - 9 November 2012 – The 74th anniversary of the Kristallnacht – the violent attack in Germany and Austria against Jews and their homes, synagogues and businesses in 1938 – was observed at United Nations Headquarters this week with two discussions involving renowned experts on some of the issues related to the pogrom.
Organized by the Holocaust and UN Outreach Programme of the world body's Department of Public Information (DPI), the discussions commemorated the events of 9-10 November 1938, also known as the 'night of broken glass,' which signalled an escalation in violence towards Jews, ultimately leading to their mass murder during the Holocaust.
Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal (left)
addresses event to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht. At right is Amb. Martin Briens of France.
UN Photo / Mark Garten
On Wednesday, a roundtable discussion entitled 'The Holocaust by Bullets: Uncovering the Reality of Genocide,' examined the work done by Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest who has dedicated many years of his life investigating the truth about mass shootings that took place during the Holocaust. His latest research focuses on the fate of the Roma during World War II.
Mr. Desbois also founded Yahad-In Unum, a research organization uncovering the mass executions of Jewish and Roma people in Eastern Europe between 1941 and 1944. The organization has identified over 800 extermination sites during the Holocaust so far, and recorded the testimony of more than 3,000 eyewitnesses to these crimes.
“I commend Father Desbois and Yahad-In Unum for their tireless efforts to recover the dignity of the Jewish and Roma victims of this brutality,” the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information and head of DPI, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, told the discussion participants in his opening remarks.
“By identifying their unmarked mass graves, you have set history on its proper course. No longer will these mothers, fathers and children remain forgotten,” he added. “No longer silent, their bodies will remain testimony to the truth.”
The event also covered global efforts to prevent genocide today. “My goal is to give back to families, Jewish communities, and to fight against Holocaust deniers,” Father Desbois told the attendees.
Other speakers at Wednesday's event included Gillian Kitley, a senior political affairs officer in the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. The Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the UN, Ambassador Martin Briens, also delivered a statement.
On Thursday, a discussion on the history of the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union during World War II, and Holocaust education in Russia today, took place with the participation of renowned historian Ilya Altman, who also co-founded the Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Centre in Moscow.
In the discussion, entitled 'From Forgotten Memory to Nascent Remembrance: Holocaust History and Education in Russia Today,' Mr. Altman and other historians examined how education and the preservation of memory of this event serve as vital links to prevent genocide in the future.
Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Sergey N. Karev, made an opening statement at the discussion, which also touched on efforts to counter Holocaust denial and recent attempts to glorify Nazi ideology.
“Today the United Nations Holocaust Programme is working – through educational materials, commemorative events, film screenings and other initiatives – to encourage Holocaust education and remembrance to help prevent genocide and mass atrocities,” DPI's Deputy Director of Partnerships and Public Engagement, Ramu Damodaran, who moderated the Thursday event, told attendees. “Education is an essential tool in defending and promoting human rights, and in combating violence and other atrocities.”
The activities of the events' organizer, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, include producing online and print educational materials, holding seminars and exhibitions, screening films and the holding the annual worldwide observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on 27 January each year.
Press Release: Father Patrick Desbois to Present New Findings on Treatment of Roma People during World War II at UN Kristallnacht Event (2 November 2012)
Cambodia's experience with genocide and reconciliation
highlighted at UN-backed panel discussion
[UN News Centre] 12 October 2012 – Cambodia's attempts to deal with the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge regime and current efforts towards reconciliation were highlighted at a United Nations-backed panel discussion examining the issues that led to mass murder during the years in which it held power in the South-East Asian nation.
Participants in the UN-backed panel discussion on Cambodia's experience with genocide and reconciliation,
held at Rutgers University. UN Photo
“It can be argued that the development of individual criminal responsibility, like we saw in the case of Duch [Kaing Guek Eav], for perpetrators of genocide and war crimes and crimes against humanity has been one of the major legal developments of the last 60 years which began with the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals,” the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Stephen Mathias, told the event, referring to the former head of a notorious Khmer Rouge detention camp who was sentenced to life in prison following convictions on war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Held on Thursday evening at Rutgers University in the US state of New Jersey, the event – centred on the panel discussion and a documentary film screening – was organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, part of the UN Department of Public Information, and the Rutgers University Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights and the Documentation Center of Cambodia.
In addition to the broader genocide and war crimes issues, the panel also explored the role of the United Nations in Cambodia and the impact of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) – the first tribunal ever held in the country where the atrocities where committed. Audience members also heard of the efforts of the Documentation Center to preserve memories and seek justice.
The panel discussion involved Mr. Mathias; Benny Widyono, a former representative of the UN Secretary-General in Cambodia; Professor Alex Hinton, the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution, and Human Rights; Samphoas Huy, a representative of the Documentation Center of Cambodia; and Andi Gitow, a UN television producer who co-produced 'Cambodia: A Quest for Justice,' a documentary film on Mr. Kaing.
Mr. Kaing headed the Toul Seng security prison, also known as S-21, in Phnom Penh, where numerous Cambodians were unlawfully detained, subjected to inhumane conditions and forced labour, tortured and executed in the late 1970s. A minimum of 12,272 people died at S-21 over a period of three years.
As many as two million people – one-quarter of Cambodia's then-population – are thought to have died during the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979, which was then followed by a protracted period of civil war in the Asian country.
Through the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), the world body has been assisting the ECCC – a hybrid court set up after a 2003 agreement between the UN and the Cambodian Government – try cases of mass murder and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge regime.
“One of the principal tasks of the Office of Legal Affairs at the UN is to insist that accountability follows serious international crimes like those that were committed in Cambodia,” Mr. Mathias told participants, consisting largely of graduate students from Rutgers University's Division of Global Affairs. “And the Secretary-General of the United Nations is at the forefront of the efforts of the United Nations to ensure that impunity is not tolerated.”
In describing her approach to making 'Cambodia: A Quest for Justice,' Ms. Gitow said that it was important to report on the facts and provide many perspectives, while always remaining sensitive to the impact it has on the survivors who appear in the film and others who have experienced the trauma.
In her remarks to the event, the manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, Kimberly Mann, emphasised the importance of prosecuting the perpetrators of these serious crimes in Cambodia in furthering the country's reconciliation efforts.
The Outreach Programme's activities include producing online and print educational materials, holding seminars and exhibitions, screening films and the holding the annual worldwide observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on 27 January each year.
Tribute paid to life and legacy of Swedish diplomat
Raoul Wallenberg at UN-backed event
(19 September 2012)
[UN News Centre] 20 September 2012 – Senior United Nations officials have paid tribute to the life and legacy of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who rescued Jews from Hungary during World War II, describing his actions as an example for others to follow.
Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson addresses a UN-organized event held to mark the centenary
of the birth of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Photo: Melanie Einzig
“Raoul Wallenberg was a young diplomat who can be admired for ingenuity and quick action saving Jewish lives in Budapest 1944 – diplomats today should follow his lead,” the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, said on Wednesday night at a special event at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, held to examine the diplomat’s mysterious disappearance at the end of World War II and his legacy.
Marking the centenary of his birth, co-sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Hungary and Sweden to the United Nations and the museum, and organized by the UN Department of Public Information’s (DPI) Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, the event featured a discussion involving authors Kati Marton and Professor Bengt Jangfeldt, both of whom have published books on the life of Mr. Wallenberg.
Born in August 1912, Mr. Wallenberg was recruited by the United States War Refugee Board in June 1944 to travel to Hungary, which had been aligned with the Axis powers. Given diplomatic status by Sweden, his task was to do what he could to assist and save Hungarian Jews.
Despite a complete lack of experience in diplomacy and clandestine operations, he led one of the most extensive and successful rescue efforts during the Holocaust. When Soviet forces liberated Budapest, the Hungarian capital, in February 1945, more than 100,000 Jews remained – mostly because of the efforts of Wallenberg and his colleagues.
“Wallenberg lived up in reality to the unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind,” Mr. Eliasson – paraphrasing philosopher Bertrand Russell – said in his remarks at the event’s opening. “But he certainly did not show any anguish or despair when it came to take action to help many survive.”
Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. Photo: Melanie Einzig
Addressing the same gathering, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, spoke of the example the Swedish diplomat had set for others.
“Raoul Wallenberg was willing to fight for what he knew to be right – to defend the lives and dignity of fellow human beings – at any cost,” Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal said. “We are all tested on a daily basis. Often it is difficult to take a stand. How would I have reacted then, under the worst of circumstances?”
Bengt Jangfeldt, Kati Marton, David Marwell at UN Wallnberg event. Photo: Melanie Einzig
“Raoul Wallenberg’s actions were guided by his compassion for others,” he added. “It is my hope that his shining example will also guide me in my life.”
The Wednesday night event was one of many activities organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme to encourage education about and remembrance of the Holocaust to help prevent future acts of genocide.
“UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said, ‘However painful, remembering the Holocaust and educating future generations is essential to overcoming prejudice, hatred and human rights abuses.’ And this is the objective of the United Nations outreach programme on the Holocaust,” noted Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal.
Maher Nasser, Director, Outreach Division, Ambassador Csaba Körösi, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the UN, Dr. David Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Ambassador Mårten Grunditz, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN, author Kati Marton, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, Professor Bengt Jangfeldt, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under Secretary General for Communications and Public Information. Photo: Melanie Einzig
The Outreach Programme’s activities include producing online and print educational materials, holding seminars and exhibitions, screening films and the holding the annual worldwide observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on 27 January each year.
Press Release: United Nations to Mark Raoul Wallenberg's Centenary with Special Event at Museum of Jewish Heritage, 19 September (13 September 2012)
"Cambodia: A Quest for Justice"
Film Screening and Panel Discussion
(30 May 2012)
From 1975 until 1979, Cambodia was ruled by communist ideologist Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who came to power after overthrowing the Government. His vision was to create a classless utopian society and return Cambodia to its agrarian roots. In the process, he would cleanse the country of all minorities, intellects and those deemed unfaithful to the regime. Almost 2 million Cambodians perished during his reign. The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme partnered with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance New York to examine the issues that led to mass murder during the PolPot regime in Cambodia and current efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. The film screening and round table discussion took place on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 at the Museum.
Distinguished panellists included Andi Gitow and Susan Farkas, co-producers of the film Cambodia: A Quest of Justice; Stephen Mathias, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs; Professor Alex Hinton, Executive Director for the Study of Genocide, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights at Rutgers University; Socheata Poeuv, founder and CEO of Khmer Legacies.
Maher Nasser, Acting Head, United Nations Department of Public Information, opened the event. Andi Gitow and Susan Farkas presented thier Emmy-nominated United Nations documentary. Through the personal stories of two individuals who survived imprisonment in Tuol Slengprison, or S-21, the film chronicles the suffering of the prisoners and covers the trial of former prison head Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch. He was the first Khmer Rouge leader to be tried by the United Nations-backed international tribunal. In July 2010, judges found Duch responsible for the death of 12,272 lives and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. On 3 February 2012, after hearing Duch’s appeal, the court sentenced him to life in prison. Other Khmer Rouge leaders have yet to be tried.
After the film screening Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs and the Director of the Task Force against Hate and Terrorism for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, introduced the panellists and moderated the discussion.
Stephen Mathias, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, talked about the role of the United Nations in Cambodia and the progress being made in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
Professor Alex Hinton, an anthropologist and expert on Cambodia, gave valuable insight into the culture of the country and an understanding of the difficulties that Cambodians are facing in the aftermath of Khmer Rouge regime.
Socheata Poeuv shared her personal story as a child survivor and explained how that experience pushed her to start Khmer Legacies, a project in which children interview their parents about surviving the Cambodian genocide. She talked about the challenges that survivors and their families are facing today. In Cambodian schools students are often not taught about this part of the history and some in younger generation grow up believing that genocide never happened.
Press Release: United Nations, Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance New York Discuss Justice for Victims of Khmer Rouge (24 May, 2012)
The United Nations Holocaust Programme partnered with the State of Israel to observe the 50th Anniversary of The Eichmann Trial
“The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: 50 Years Later”
(23 April 2012)
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme organized a roundtable discussion on 23 April at United Nations Headquarters to mark the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the most important events in Holocaust history.
Distinguished speakers included Minister Peled of Israel, a child survivor; Mark S. Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association; Amos Hausner, an attorney and son of Prosecutor Gideon Hausner; Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta and author of The Eichmann Trial; and Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, United Nations Messenger of Peace and human rights activist who covered the trial for the newspaper The Forward. The panellists explored the psychological, social and legal aspects of the trial, including its influence on justice and accountability in the twenty-first century.
Minister Peled shared his heart wrenching experience as a child survivor who had been raised by a Christian family. He described his emotions and disbelief upon learning at the age of nine that he had been adopted by a surrogate family. Hundreds of Jewish children were hidden or raised as gentiles in order to protect them during the Holocaust.
Minister Peled of Israel (Photo: Shahar Azran)
Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association focused his remarks on the principal of universal jurisdiction. He explained how the Holocaust had changed the paradigm of international law and how the Eichmann case brought the concept of universal jurisdiction to the forefront. The case set a precedent for the Courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which led to the creation of the International Criminal Court. He challenged the audience when he asked, “Will the legacy of the Eichmann case and its strong position in promoting universal jurisdiction be the same 50 years from now?”
(Photo: Shahar Azran)
Amos Hausner, son of Prosecutor Hausner, spoke about his father’s role and the legacy of the Eichmann trial. He said that everything Eichmann did was legal in the country where he acted, however the Israeli court rejected Eichmann’s plea of innocence for following orders. As at the Nuremberg trials, the individual would be held accountable for his actions. Mr. Hausner also underlined the importance of international laws that would serve as a deterrent to genocide.
Professor Lipstadt emphasized that the Eichmann trial forever changed the world’s perception of victims of genocide. She explained how the testimonies of the survivors “opened the world’s eyes to genocide in an unprecedented fashion”. According to Ms. Lipstadt, another important element of the trial was that for the first time the Jewish people were able to sit in judgement on crimes committed against their own people.
Ambassador Ron Prosor (Israel) with Elie Wiesel (Photo: Shahar Azran)
Professor Wiesel gave his impressions of the trial from a journalist’s point of view. During the trial, Professor Wiesel had noted how Eichmann showed no sign of remorse – he slept well, ate well, and appeared to be inhuman. Professor Wiesel ended his remarks with the observation “what we have learned from those bitter times is that it was human to be inhuman”.
An entrance ticket to the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Jerusalem, 1961
Women’s Strength Through Adversity
Examined at UN-USC event
(8 March 2012)
8 March 2012 - The United Nations Holocaust Programme, The University of Southern California in Los Angeles and women survivors of conflict situations in Africa and Eastern Europe came together in a special event to discuss women’s resilience and their innate ability to overcome adversity and empower others in the face of conflict or extreme violence.
Participants learned about life in a death camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through the eyes of Rose Mapendo, a Congolese Tutsui, who had lived the nightmare along with her children and her late husband who was executed there. Now a citizen of the United States, Ms. Mapendo founded the non-governmental organization Mapendo New Horizon to improve the lives of women and children survivors of war and violence.
Kimberly Mann, Manager, The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme; Alison Dundes Renteln, Professor of Political Science and Anthropology, USC; Beth Meyerowitz, Vice Provost, Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine, USC; Sabina Vajrača, Bosnian-American film director, screenwriter, and producer; Rose Mapendo, survivor of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo credit: Kim Fox
“I am not a victim anymore”, Mapendo said. “I’ve been through and experienced a lot; all this work I do is to give back for what God has done in my life and to speak on behalf of women who cannot speak for themselves”.
Held at the USC campus in the Davidson Conference Center to mark the observance of International Women’s Day, the event centered around a discussion with panellists Kimberly Mann, Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme; Alison Dundes Renteln, Professor of Political Science and Anthropology at USC, Sabina Vajrača, a Bosnian-American film director, screenwriter and film director; and Rose Mapendo. USC Vice Provost Beth Meyerowitz, a Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine at USC, moderated the discussion. Ambassador Aimaque, Consul-General of Afghanistan in Los Angeles, also spoke. The event was opened by Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.
In her remarks, Kimberly Mann told the audience that women today can learn from Mapendo and other survivors’ leadership, courage, compassion and intelligence. She underscored her point by telling the story of Roza Robota, one of four women involved in the Sonderkommando revolt in 1944. The 23-year-old hid a gun-powder type compound in her skirt hem and led the demolition of Auschwitz II’s Crematorium III. After refusing to reveal the names of others involved, the women were interrogated, tortured and hanged. “Young women today will be inspired by these brave and resourceful women of the Holocaust”, Ms. Mann said. “They are real-life heroines, and not the fictional characters played by leading women in Hollywood films today”.
Kimberly Mann, Manager, The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.
Photo credit: Kim Fox.
Speakers also discussed the importance of ensuring women elsewhere in the world are granted basic human rights. During her presentation, Renteln discussed how international laws have evolved throughout history to protect women’s rights, but laws providing protections to religious freedoms and cultural practices have sometimes taken precedent, creating a “hierarchy problem”. Violence against women continues today in the form of honour killings, in which male and female relatives punish female family members through torture, rape or death for bringing what they consider to be dishonour upon the family.
“Some of these blatant forms of violence against women clearly show that ‘cultural rights’ must give way to women’s rights”, Renteln said.
Ambassador Aimaque spoke about his work and how he seeks to change practices concerning women deprived of basic rights under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
“It is time for all of us to stand together as partners”, Aimaque said. “And provide protection, improve governments and built security forces so we can accomplish our mission and make the world a better place for men, women and children”.
Cosponsored by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation Institute and organized by the United Nations Department of Public Information, the event titled “Strength Through Adversity: Women and Mass Violence” was the first event held by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme in observance of International Women’s Day.
An audience member addresses the panelists. Photo credit: Kim Fox.
Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world: nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries.
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme encourages Holocaust Remembrance and education in order to prevent genocide. The multifaceted programme includes online products, seminars, a discussion paper series for university students, exhibits, a film series and leads a world-wide annual remembrance day of the Holocaust.
Roundtable Discussion on Justice and Accountablility
To mark the 65th anniversary of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg
(9 November 2011)
On 9 November, The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, in partnership with the International Bar Association, held a roundtable discussion titled “Justice and Accountability after the Holocaust”, in observance of the 65th anniversary of the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. The tribunal was an important milestone in history and helped to lay the legal foundation for international tribunals that have followed, as well as the Rome Statute under which the International Criminal Court was established.
Distinguished speakers included Cecile Aptel, Co-Chair of the International Bar Association’s War Crimes Committee and Professor at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University; Irwin Cotler, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; Patricia Heberer, a historian with the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; and Karen Odaba Mosoti, Head of the Liaison Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to the United Nations. Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Public Engagement, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information, moderated the discussion. Each of the panellists offered their perspectives of the actions of the German courts under Nazi rule, and the proceedings of the Nuremberg trials.
Cecile Aptel of the International Bar Association spoke about the responsibility of the judiciary not only for the application of law, but for the development of law. She challenged participants when she asked, “What should lawyers and judges do when political systems fail and turn against citizens?”
Patricia Heberer of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum focused her remarks on the discriminatory laws that were upheld in Nazi Germany. She explained that over 400 anti-Jewish laws and exclusionary decrees were developed under Nazi rule.
Irwin Cotler of Canada discussed similarities between the Holocaust and genocides that have followed. He underlined the dangers of state sanctioned hate, indifference, cultures of impunity, and the complicity of the elite. “Judges, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and architects all participated in the Nazi plan”, he said.
Karen Odaba Mosoti of the ICC emphasized that Nuremberg established that men were responsible for the crimes that had been committed under Nazi rule, and not an abstract force. Individuals would be held accountable and could no longer claim they were simply “following orders”. She described the cases that were currently before the court and said they were similar to the Nuremberg crimes but in a current context. According to Ms. Mosoti, one of the major challenges facing the court today is the lack of universal participation. Only 115 countries have signed up to the Rome Statute, which leaves the populations of many countries vulnerable to the worst offences committed by mankind.
A group photo of the panellists and organizers of a roundtable discussion on “Justice and accountability after the Holocaust”,
held to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
The entire discussion and question and answer session can be viewed on the United Nations webcast.
Law Justice and the Holocaust, United States Holoaust Memorial Museum
What does a suit-wearing, international civil servant charged with advising United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the prevention of genocide have in common with a khaki–wearing, grass roots human rights activist? A lot more than one might think, as discovered by students, teachers and NGOs at a discussion between Under- Secretary-General Francis Deng and John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, at United Nations Headquarters on Friday 20 May 2011.
For one thing, both men believe that the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has been given new life since Member States agreed to make a historic commitment to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in 2005.
(left to right) Francis Deng, Maher Nasser and John Prendergast
Mr. Prendergast cited a number of cases that he would consider to be a successful application of the concept, including situations in the Ivsry Coast and Kenya, as well as the peaceful referendum that resulted in the independence of South Sudan. Mr. Deng indicated that formally linking the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on R2P with his own mandate through a joint office was a constructive move, given the many links between their roles and the importance of providing early warning to the Secretary-General on the risk of all four crimes, not just genocide.
Both men see governments as integral to preventing mass atrocities. Mr. Deng works to increase understanding of the causes and the very real possibilities of genocide. He promotes the principle of “sovereignty as responsibility”, and believes that genocide can be prevented if it is understood as an extreme form of identity-related conflict, which calls for States to manage diversity constructively, promote respect for human rights, equality, inclusion and a common sense of belonging as one nation.
Mr. Prendergast encourages action from the ground up in order to influence governments. He believes that each individual can make a difference, especially when working in the context of social movements, such as Enough. Signing a petition demanding State action is one way. Or there is the exercising of the power of the consumer, which was effective in stemming the blood diamonds trade. He encourages buyers to insist that manufacturers provide products with a guarantee that the elements used in their production do not come from conflict areas.
John Prendergast, Co-Chair of the Enough Project, speaks at a panel discussion on genocide prevention organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
What do they want the international community to do to help prevent mass atrocities? Mr. Deng would like to see the mobilization of all those who have the capacity to help. Mr. Prendergast would like more accountability measures, increased support for the International Criminal Court and more targeted action against individuals, beyond the usual sanctions imposed on offending States.
In reflecting on the Holocaust, Mr. Deng emphasized that it was crucial for us to understand the root causes behind the emergence of a Hitler. Unless we do, the evil within some of us cannot be eradicated to prevent the recurrence of genocide and other mass atrocities. He warned that countries that have not experienced this kind of violence must learn from history, because they are not immune. “Our failure to prevent past violence raises our awareness and determination to do better”, said Mr. Deng. Mr. Prendergast concluded that in his 25 years as a human rights activist, “I have never been as hopeful for the future of genocide prevention, whether it is action initiated as a result of popular protest against atrocities or by enlightened governments”.
Francis Deng, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, speaks at a panel discussion on genocide prevention organized by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
The morning discussion, moderated by Mr. Maher Nasser, Director of DPI Outreach Division, was followed by a workshop for educators, led by the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme and Facing History and Ourselves.
[Download event poster]
71th Anniversary Observance of the Kristallnacht pogrom
Panel discussion and film screening:
“Learning about the Holocaust through Art”
(9 November 2009)
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme organized a special event highlighting Holocaust education through the arts on 9 November 2009, in observance of the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom that took place on 9 November 1939 in Germany.
Hosted by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, the event included the launch of the programme’s newest publication titled, “The Holocaust and the United Nations Discussion Papers Journal". The publication contains a foreword by Mr. Akasaka and nine papers drafted by experts around the world on the Holocaust and genocide prevention. The topics include the Holocaust and its implications; Holocaust education in China; a Holocaust survivor’s memory; the Holocaust as a guidepost for genocide detection in Africa; hatred and humanity; genocidal conflicts and the crisis of identity; the history of the Jews in Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries and the fate of the Roma during the Holocaust. The journal, aimed at secondary school and university students, provides a forum for individual scholars representing a variety of cultures and perspectives, to raise issues for debate and further study in the classroom.
Documentary film is another very effective way to narrate the history of the Holocaust. Film Director Hilary Helstein skilfully found a new way of reaching audiences by encouraging them to learn about the Holocaust through art. Her documentary film titled “As Seen through These Eyes” was screened to a large audience in the Trusteeship Hall.
(Photo: Ms. Hilary Helstein presenting her film "As seen through These Eyes")
Ms. Helstein, who also wrote and produced the film, travelled the world over the past decade to compile interviews with artists who survived the Holocaust. The documentary shows how these survivors produced an account that history could not -- a journal of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of the artists.
(Photo: discussion was led with Ms. Helstein by Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director of the Outreach Division, DPI)
These artists rebelled against the Nazis and risked their lives by doing what they were forbidden to do -- create. Narrated by Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Maya Angelou, and produced in association with the Sundance Channel, this 70-minute documentary aims to combat prejudice, bigotry and intolerance. The words and the images of the survivor artists are profoundly moving, communicating horror and hope artistically. For them, art was and still is a means of survival, either directly by saving their lives during the Holocaust or by helping them to endure and move forward from the unbearable past.
Following the film, a lively discussion was led with Ms. Helstein by Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director of the Outreach Division. Fredrick Terna and Judith Goldstein, two of the artists depicted in the film, also shared their experiences.
(Photo: Mr. Fredrick Terna, one of the artists depicted in the film took part in the discussion)
With the kind support of Ms. Helstein and Menemsha Films, the Holocaust programme distributed the documentary for screenings that were held by the United Nations Associations of New York and Israel as well as by United Nations information centres in Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Colombia, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Peru, Romania, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, South Africa and Zambia.
- 70th Anniversary Observance of Kristallnacht (10 November 2008)
- Saving Succeeding Generations (26 June 2008)
- From Kristallnacht to Today: How do we Combat Hatred?(8 November 2007)
- The United Nations and the Response to Genocide (14 September 2006)
- Holocaust Awareness and the Prevention of Genocide (12 May 2006)