United Nations and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
organize first UNIC training seminar -
“The History of the Holocaust: Confronting Hatred, Preventing Genocide and Cultivating Moral Responsibility”
14 to 18 May 2007
|Daniel Greene, Historian and Curator of “A Dangerous Lie: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” leads the UNIOs on a tour of the exhibition.|
The Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme initiated a new partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) to better equip the Department’s information officers to raise public awareness about the Holocaust and its relevance today. A one-week training programme for National Information Officers of United Nations information centres (UNICs) in the Americas was held at USHMM from 14 to 18 May 20007 in Washington, D.C. While providing the participants with the historical background and context in which the Holocaust took place, the seminar helped local staff to understand the impact that it has had on contemporary society and encouraged them to promote action in their own communities that would strengthen democratic values and promote tolerance, in order to help prevent genocide. The valuable support provided by USHMM will assist the information officers in carrying out the mandate of the Holocaust Remembrance resolution 60/7, which established the outreach programme to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education.
|UN Information Officers pose with staff of the National Institute for Holocaust Education at USHMM.|
The seminar highlighted the underlying issues that can lead to genocide, such as hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, and explored ways to promote tolerance, democracy, and human rights. Each day of the seminar had been devoted to a different theme, beginning with a focus on the role of the United Nations in protecting human rights and the legal instruments that have been designed to help prevent genocide and ensure accountability.
|From left to right, Liliana Garavito (UNIC Bogota), Valeria Schilling (UNIC Rio de Janeiro), Gustavo Poch (UNIC Buenos Aires), Ines Scudellari (UNIC LIma), and Jiesselinde Gonzalez (UNIC Panama) in front of the White House.|
The seminar’s activities were divided into three category groups: briefings and presentations, World Cafe brainstorming and strategy sessions discussions, and interactive tours. More than 25 Museum staff members were involved
a. Over the course of the week, the participants attended 16 briefings on subjects related to the Holocaust, the prevention of genocide, Anti-Semitism in Latin America, post-conflict justice, the role of propaganda, and an interview with a Holocaust survivor. Three of these sessions were conducted in Spanish. These presentations demonstrated the dangers of unchecked hatred and the need to prevent acts of intolerance early on. The briefings encouraged the participants to promote action in their own communities and cultivated a sense of moral responsibility to respond to the monumental challenges that confront our world.
b. During four structured brainstorming and strategy sessions, called “World Cafés,” the participants engaged in a collaborative dialogue and knowledge-sharing exercise on the topics of the Holocaust, genocide prevention, promoting tolerance and achieving United Nations goals in Latin America and the Caribbean. The participants were encouraged by scholars who moderated the groups to identify challenges in their countries and to formulate solutions to answer issues of intolerance, anti-Semitism, racism and challenges to human rights.
Participants studied how the abuse of power, including by the institutions established to help protect society, can lead to the breakdown of democratic values. They also learned how the media spread hatred and racism, and how this led to the persecution and violence against Jews and other minorities. Thought-provoking discussions, led by Sarah Ogilvie, Director of the National Institute of Holocaust Education (NIHE) and Dan Napolitano, Director of the Institute's Education Division, on post-conflict justice, helped to address questions regarding the moral obligation a society has towards its members. Examination of contemporary dimensions of the Holocaust, including its legacy in the Americas, furthered understanding of the complex issues of migration and antisemitism today. The seminar also enabled participants to develop communications strategies to help combat intolerance and discrimination towards the disabled and other marginalized groups in their countries.
|Holocaust survivor David Bayer tells his story to the UNIOs.|
Following a briefing from the Holocaust programme manager on the objectives of resolution 60/7, Sara Bloomfield, Executive-Director of USHMM and William Parsons, Chief of Staff, joined the UNIC National Information Officers in a brainstorming session on creative activities the group might implement at the national and local levels.
c. The participants engaged in interactive tours of the museums exhibits led by expert guides who moderated compelling discussion exercises on the installations. The exhibits provided both visual and historical artifacts for the participants to draw upon during the discussion sessions. In addition, the exhibits provided the participants with examples and information to support the development of Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention events in their home countries.
UNICs in the Americas region were integrated into the communications strategy of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, which will increase its global impact. The participants learned problem-solving and communication techniques to better convey key messages that will help ensure more effective programming and help them to support the development by Member States of educational curricula on the lessons of the Holocaust, as mandated by General Assembly resoultion 60/7. These field offices also had the opportunity to network and coordinate their regional communication efforts.
A Power Point presentation for school children on the Holocaust and the United Nations was produced by UNIC LIMA (Maria Ines Scudellari) and has been translating into all official languages to be shared with all UNICS. In further cooperation, USHMM has created the Spanish-language version of the outreach programme’s online pedagogical tool “Electronic Notes for Speakers”. This tool combines survivor testimony with the historical facts to add a human dimension to learning about the Holocaust. USHMM will provide ongoing support to UNIC outreach efforts by offering them advice and information materials in Spanish.
One participant said, “Although I have visited two concentration camps and I am knowledgeable about the Third Reich, this issue, the Holocaust, gets to you every time. I think it is particularly relevant for some of our Latin American and Caribbean countries to pay attention to the early signs of erosion of democracy. A society that allows or encourages these behaviors could end up committing genocide, and that is why it so important to bring home to our governments the early warning signs.”
A second participant commented, “It was a tremendous experience. A phrase that I will never forget and that I saw for the first time at The Holocaust Museum was: “It is not about being Jewish: it’s about Humanity”. It was a really a touching phrase for me and had an intense meaning. Without a doubt, the seminar gave us an extraordinary opportunity to reflect on a dark moment in humankind’s history. Now we are better equipped to promote, to educate, to disseminate the value of cultural diversity, the values that should guide the international community in the 21st. century, and the importance of respecting and internalizing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
A third participant throught, “The sessions provided us with tremendous insights into the Holocaust, and I especially appreciated the opportunity to learn and discuss the history and issues with the knowledgeable experts the USHMM provided to us. The week helped me to better understand the “why” of our organization – because the UN was founded on the very ashes of the Holocaust. From that tragedy and crime, to the recent expansion of our role as giving meaning to the responsibility to protect civilians, is a direct line. Our discussions helped me to better understand that, and the example of USHMM staff who must deal with these difficult issues every day, helped to reinvigorate my own commitment.”