United Nations and the House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational site
organize fourth training seminar -
"Holocaust Awareness and Genocide Prevention”
13 to 18 April 2008
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme partnered with The House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site and the Government of Germany to hold the fourth in a series of week-long training programmes for National Information Officers from the global network of United Nations information centres. The seminar examined the events that led to the Holocaust and the vital role that its lessons have today in the prevention of genocide.
|Participants of the seminar pose with Wolf Kaiser, Deputy-Director of the Wannsee House, and Kathryn Meyer Executive-Secretary of the Task Force for International Cooperationon Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.|
The participants, responsible for the implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/7 on Holocaust remembrance at the national and local levels, serve in offices located in Accra, Canberra, Colombo, Dar Es Salaam, Dhaka, Harare, Islamabad, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Kazakhstan, Khartoum, Lagos, Lusaka, Maseru, Nairobi, New Delhi, Prague, Sana’a, Tehran, Uzbekistan, Vienna, Windhoek, Warsaw and Yangon.
The vast majority of the participants had never undertaken formal studies on the subject and most had never met a Holocaust survivor. Visiting the various memorials to the murdered Jews of Europe, following the path of the perpetrators as they arrived at a scheme to implement the “final solution” and hearing a survivor’s first-hand account of her experience helped the participants to understand the human dimension of this tragedy.
|Kimberly Mann, Manager of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Protramme and Moha Rajai-Moghadam (UNIC Tehran) attend a briefing at the German Foreign Office.|
The seminar traced the evolution of anti-Semitism, which resulted in the destruction of European Jewry during the Holocaust. Tactics and techniques of the system of terror imposed by the Nazis illustrated how they were able to spread hate and fear amongst the populations of Europe. Participants learned how Nazi racist ideology, fueled by the media and supported at every level of society, became the justification to persecute and kill, resulting in countless victims, including other minorities.
Experts explained how the abuse of power led to the breakdown of democratic values and the need for the international community to take action to ensure the protection of basic human rights for all. Participants studied the role of the United Nations in the establishment of mechanisms intended for this purpose and examined the international legal norms designed to deter, prosecute and punish crimes against humanity and genocide. These presentations led to meaningful discussions on racism and ways to combat xenophobia around the world today.
The seminar included the following activities (a) experiential tours, (b) briefings and debates and (c) practical workshops.
|Information officers gather in working groups to brainstorm and plan meaningful activities on Holocaust remembrance, confronting racism and combating xenophobia.|
a. Participants saw and experienced several Holocaust memorials in and around Berlin. The Jewish Museum helped the participants to understand the life and traditions of the Jews of Europe and their contributions to society. The tragic loss of these families was poignantly expressed at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Participants also toured the former concentration camp Sachsenhausen, which served as the training ground for SS troops who ran the entire network of forced labour and death camps. They also visited the Topography of Terror Foundation, as the site of the former Nazi Headquarters. The permanent exhibit at The House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site chronicled the history of the Holocaust at the villa where SS officials met to plan the extermination of all Jews.
b. Throughout the week the participants attended 16 briefings and lectures, notable among which were panel discussions on combating anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance at the German Institute for Human Rights and another on Interfaith Dialogue, with the participation of NGOs and Middle East experts. Participants also had the opportunity to visit the German Foreign Office and hold discussions with the Division for United Nations Affairs.
c. Practical workshops were held on: the International Criminal Court and the various International Tribunals, the development of educational programmes on the Holocaust and implementation of General Assembly resolution 60/7.
Participants benefited from in depth briefings on the Holocaust, human rights and international law by leading experts in these fields. They had the opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding or preconceived notions that they might have formulated on the topic or on the mandate of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. In addition, they shared with each other personal experiences and provided suggestions on how to implement activities to combat racism and xenophobia at the national and local level. They also learned strategies to communicate the dangers of hatred and bigotry in order to promote respect for diversity. Also, these field offices will now receive ongoing support from the House of the Wannsee Conference Memorial and Educational Site, a leading institution in the area of Holocaust remembrance and education.
|Information officers toured the Nazi concentration camp Sachsenhausen.|
One participant said, "The seminar made me realize that genocide remains a real threat and that Holocaust- related outreach activities are truly needed to prevent it."
A scond particpant said, " It was a very rewarding experience. I never thought I would have this close contact with the relevant German authorities to hear and see the Holocaust from their perspective."
Another remarked, " The issue of the Holocaust is of exceptional importance and this seminar will help to make it an issue in more countries."
A fourth particpant commented, " The seminar broadened my outlook and deepened my understanding of the Holocaust. The visits to various sites of the Holocaust will enable me to explain better during the briefings and convince those who deny it and provide such people with texts and photos to help them rethink their position."
|Information officers visited the Topography of Terror - Exhibition on the former site of the Nazi Headquarters and received a briefing from the German Institute for Human Rights.|
"The critical relationship between the human rights framework and the theory of responsibility when rights are violated is a key idea that will enable me to introduce Holocaust commemoration in my country. I realized that hate and discrimination need to be constantly targeted through education and civil society discussion. I landed in Berlin unsure of what I would learn and whether it would have any impact on my work. I return after a stimulating intellectual tour of human rights behavior, state response and responsibility, and the role of international law and the UN in preventing such human tragedies from recurring. The idea of memory, of observance and commemoration as an ongoing education exercise was vividly reiterated", said another.