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United Nations and le Memorial de la Shoah
organize third training seminar -
"Holocaust Awareness and Genocide Prevention”


10 to 16 November 2007
Paris, France; Crackow, Poland; and Auschwitz Birkenau

Participants of the seminar attend a briefing on Jewish life in Europe before WWII by Philippe Boukara, Coordinator, Department of Education, Memorial de la Shoah.
Information officers attend a briefing on Jewish life in Europe before WWII by Philippe Boukara, Coordinator, Department of Education, Memorial de la Shoah.

The Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme partnered with le Memorial de la Shoah to organize the third in a series of regional one-week training seminars for National Information Officers from the French-speaking United Nations information centres (UNICs) in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This seminar helped to further the participants’ understanding of antisemitism, the underlying causes of genocide, the history of the Holocaust and its relevance today.  The seminar, funded by le Memorial de la Shoah, was held in Paris from 10 to 18 November 2007, with visits to the old Jewish quarter in Cracow, Poland and to Auschwitz Birkenau, the former Nazi death and concentration camp.

Participants of the seminar attend a briefing on Jewish life in Europe before WWII by Philippe Boukara, Coordinator, Department of Education, Memorial de la Shoah.
Participants of the seminar participate in a guided tour and briefing of Auschwitz Birkenau, the former Nazi death and concentration camp.

The participants also learned of pre-World War II life for Jewish people in Europe, through a visit to the Museum of Art and History of Judaism, and followed their plight as the Nazi’s rose to power and imposed their racial ideology across the map.  They studied the various phases of the Holocaust and were able to analyze its consequences and the devasting impact of World War II, resulting in the founding of the United Nations.  The emergence of a legal system to help deter, prosecute and punish crimes against humanity was outlined. Also highlighted was the role of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA) after the war in helping to care for and settle displaced persons and refugees.

Following a briefing by Kimberly Mann on the objectives of General Assembly resolution 60/7, participants discussed ways in which to integrate the work of the centres into the overall communications strategy of the Outreach Programme.  Jacques Fredj, the Director of le Memorial, joined the National Officers in a brainstorming session on follow-up activities.  As one outcome, the centres will establish a list serve through which they can share information and ideas and generate support for regional outreach efforts, such as joint materials for the website.  Memorial de la Shoah will assist these efforts by making resource materials available in French and serving as experts when needed.

Participants of the seminar attend a briefing on Jewish life in Europe before WWII by Philippe Boukara, Coordinator, Department of Education, Memorial de la Shoah.
Participants tour the historical Jewish neighbourhood of Paris, Le Marais.

Seminar Structure:

The seminar was divided into briefings and lectures, interactive sessions and field visits, conceived by Claude Singer, Pedagogical Director of le Memorial de la Shoah.

a. The lectures were given by educators and historians at le Memorial, along with Professors from Universities such as the Sorbonne and Science Politique, among other professionals.  Presentations on the history of the Jews and antisemitism in Europe helped to clarify how the Nazis and their collaborators were able to perpetrate a genocide against the Jews. Through understanding the concept of genocide, as codified in international law, the participants were able to appreciate the legal instruments and bodies that the United Nations has in place to help to deter, prosecute, and punish crimes against humanity and genocide.  

b. Interactive sessions on using information resources such as film, publications and the Internet, including the Holocaust Programme’s “Electronic Notes for Speakers”, were held. Testimony from a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto, that traced life in the ghetto and was illustrated by a large scale model of the city housed at le Memorial, was moving and instructive.

c. Field visits to authentic sites in Poland offered a deeper understanding of the depravity of a regime that brutally murdered Jews at gunpoint, and then went to great lengths to develop an industrialized killing machine in the camps to ensure that that no Jew would survive, along with countless other victims.   The opportunity to visit the prisoners’ barracks and view crumbling crematoria and other exhibits was unique and had a profound affect on the participants, who were accompanied by Dr. Henri Borlant, a survivor of the camp.

UNICs Paris training
Information officers pose in front of the memorial wall where the names of the 76,000 Jews (including 11,000 children) deported from France have been engraved.

Dr. Borlant, a French citizen, was deported and sent to Auschwitz as a teen.  He suffered three years in the camps before escaping. Allied Forces helped him to return home where he was eventually able to finish school and live a productive life.  In Henri’s view, the seminar was invaluable in that by examining the breakdown of democratic values and respect for human rights, the participants would learn of the dangers that totalitarian regimes pose.  As a result of the seminar, the participants can help ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust, including the inability of the international community and local civic and political leaders to act at that time, are known to the world.

It is noteworthy to mention that Auschwitz Birkenau receives a million visitors per year, including students, teachers, similar in number to those who visit the United Nations. 

Outcomes:

Following a briefing by Kimberly Mann on the objectives of General Assembly resolution 60/7, participants discussed ways in which to integrate the work of the centres into the overall communications strategy of the Outreach Programme.  Jacques Fredj, the Director of le Memorial, and Karel Fracapane, International Coordinator, joined the National Officers in a brainstorming session on follow-up activities.  As one outcome, the centres will establish a list serve through which they can share information and ideas and generate support for regional outreach efforts, such as joint materials for the website.  Memorial de la Shoah will assist these efforts by making resource materials available in French and serving as experts when needed.

Participants tour Auschwitz Birkenau and listed to a first hand account from Holocaust survivor Dr. Henri Borlant.
At Auschwitz Birkenau, participants listen to a first hand account from Holocaust survivor Dr. Henri Borlant.

Discussions were held on how best to integrate the lessons of the Holocaust on the continent of Africa, where in the words of one participant, “genocide has become part of the fabric of society”.  It was suggested that outreach efforts on this issue would be more effective if the experience of the Holocaust were linked to other genocides.  It was also noted that the political sensitivity of this issue makes the subject difficult to introduce in some regions, but that the need for programmes that promote religious and ethnic tolerance and respect for diversity are essential.   

Participant remarks:

One participant said that “I was truly happy and fortunate to be part of this training.  Now I have a new challenge and work to do, because no one can remain indifferent to this subject or Resolution 60/7 after this training”. 

Another participant said, “this subject needs to be promoted locally and we are now experts, able to deal with this subject in our countries”.  The participants, agreed as a first step, to organize commemorative activities to mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in 2008.

Press Release - 9 November 2007

Message from UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka on openning day of UNIC seminar in Paris

UNICs Website