United Nations and Yad Vashem
organize second UNIC training seminar -
“International Forum on Holocaust Awareness and Genocide Prevention”
26 October to 1 November 2007
|Participants attend a briefing by Rony Leshno Yaar, Deputy Director-General for International Organizations, Israeli Foreign Ministry, on the adoption of United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 "Holocaust Remembrance"|
The Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme partnered with Yad Vashem to organize the second in a series of regional one-week training programmes for National Information Officers of United Nations information centres (UNICs) in Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific regions. This seminar helped to further the participants’ understanding of antisemitism, the underlying issues that can lead to genocide, the history of the Holocaust and its relevance today. The seminar, funded by Yad Vashem, was held from 26 October to 1 November 2007 in Jerusalem, Israel. Participants included UNICs Ankara, Bangkok, Bucharest, Manila, Moscow, Pretoria, Tokyo and UNOs Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, and the manager of the Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme.
|The information offiers tour the ground of Yad Vashem and learn about a monument dedicated to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Photo/Victor Radivinovski|
The seminar chronicled the evolution of antisemitism and racism in the world, which culminated in the persecution and murder of the Jewish people under the Nazi regime. The underlying issues which serve as signposts of potential genocidal situations today were also highlighted, encouraging UNICs to ensure that civil society mobilize against acts of hatred and violence today. Participants were made aware of the failure of the international community to prevent or effectively respond to the genocide of the Jews, or others that have followed it. The link between the past and the present was clearly established. Nazi racial ideology and its devastating impact on all strata of society throughout Europe was examined, with a view to remaining vigilant of the threat of racism in all corners of the globe.
Thought-provoking discussions of the role of the United Nations in helping to protect and promote human rights around the world were led by experts from Yad Vashem and other institutions. Practical workshops were held to strengthen the skills of the National Officers to organize effective Holocaust Remembrance activities and to incorporate Holocaust art and exhibits in working at the grass roots level. Resource materials in various languages and survivor testimony were made available to the participants.
The seminar was divided into lectures by Yad Vashem experts and others, interactive tours and hands-on workshops conceived by Ms. Dorit Novak, Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies; Ms. Shulami Imber, Pedagogical Director; and Ms. Richelle Budd-Caplan; Director for International Relations.
a. Yad Vashem invited its educators, historians, art curators and other technicians along with experts in the field of Holocaust studies from Tel Aviv University and the International Institute for Holocaust Research to brief the group. Yehuda Bauer, world-renowed scholar, former Chair of the Yad Vashem Research Institute and Honorary Chairman of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, was a special guest. Discussions focused on the warning signs of genocide and how to combat antisemitism and xenophobia today. Another highlight was the opportunity to discuss the spirit of the Holocaust remembrance resolution with a representative of the Foreign Ministry of Israel.
Participants of the seminar tour the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), in Jerusalem and receive a briefing from Colonel Darwin J. Gould, Deputy Chief of Staff on the work of this peacekeeping mission, established in 1948.
b. Tours included visits to the permanent exhibitions and memorials on the grounds of Yad Vashem, in honour of the hundreds of lost Jewish communities, murdered men, women and children, as well as the rescuers and survivors. These memorials, the “Every Person Has a Name Project” and the concluding ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance in particular helped to put a human face on this tragedy. Visits to historical sites in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv underscored the significance of the city to many different religious and ethnic groups.
c. Hands-on workshops
One of the highlights of the week’s programme was a visit to Yad Vashem’s Interactive learning centre, where the National Information Officers could listen to a variety of views on questions raised as a result of the Holocaust, which helped them to absorb the history and reflect on its consequences. Another workshop provided the participants with guidelines for organizing activities for Holocaust Remembrance Day. Another presented techniques that participants could incorporate into their outreach efforts on combating xenophobia and racism.
The information officers participate in a walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Following a briefing from the Holocaust programme manager on the objectives of resolution 60/7, Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, joined the UNIC National Information Officers in a brainstorming session on creative activities the group might implement at the national and local levels. The participants divided into small discussion groups led by Ms. Novak, Ms. Budd-Caplan, Ms. Imber and Ms. Mann and then reported the ideas back to the whole.
Among many suggested follow up activities, the United Nations Information Centres will partner with Yad Vashem to identify students in their countries who will participate in an International Youth Conference being held at Yad Vashem in January 2008. An essay contest will be held with one high school, and the winner would be nominated to travel to Yad Vashem to take part in the youth gathering.
|The national information officers tour the permanent exhibits at Yad Vashem|
Also, the UNICs will work with local graduates of Yad Vashem study programmes to enhance Holocaust outreach activities in their countries. In addition, t he information officers will also have access to expertise and information resources that Yad Vashem has available in the official languages of the United Nations. Among these count an online course in Holocaust studies and lesson plans on teaching tolerance. In addition, the Holocaust programme will provide each Centre with a narrative and timeline on the Holocaust to mount at the UNIC premises where feasible, for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"I had limited knowledge of the Holocaust before coming here. This experience opened up my eyes and my mind and helped me to establish a link between the past and the present. The Holocaust did not end with liberation of the camps. We have seen that antisemitism still exists today, in writing and in sentiment, and we need to address this. We must get to the root of it by including children and their parents in outreach programmes to get to the bottom of discrimination."
Another said, "This seminar has increased my knowledge about this watershed event. It will help me in my work and has made me more confident in dealing with this sensitive issue".