In January 2021, the IHRA launched two important international initiatives, essential pieces to furthering the IHRA’s work of raising awareness of Holocaust distortion on multiple fronts:
- The launch of Protect the Facts, a global awareness-raising campaign with the European Commission, the United Nations and UNESCO
- The launch of ”Recognizing and Countering Holocaust Distortion: Recommendations for Policy and Decision Makers“ published in partnership with UNESCO
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, the IHRA, the UN and UNESCO also organized a panel to discuss in detail the challenges posed by Holocaust distortion and how it must be internationally addressed. CNN, the IHRA's media partner for this panel discussion, streamed this important event and CNN anchor Hala Gorani moderated the discussion.
Holocaust distortion is on the rise
Holocaust distortion excuses, minimizes, or misrepresents the known historical record of the Holocaust. Distortion is becoming increasingly prevalent in contemporary culture, from media to politics and across the ideological spectrum. A survey of Millennials and Gen Z in all 50 US states conducted by the Claims Conference and published in September 2020 revealed that approximately half (49%) had seen Holocaust denial and distortion posts online. This problem is of course not confined to the Unites States, however. Holocaust distortion is an international phenomenon and can be found all over the world, in all corners of society.
Despite its prevalence, the issue of Holocaust distortion benefits from a general lack of awareness. Harder to identify than Holocaust denial, it is often left unchecked. Because it is often the first step toward more radical forms of antisemitism, conspiracy-thinking, and anti-democratic behavior, it is nevertheless just as dangerous. Countering it requires the participation of all of society, working together to address this issue. To help in this effort, the German Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance established the Global Task Force Against Holocaust Distortion. Now, two major initiatives connected to this Task Force, have been launched.
Launch of Protect the Facts
On 25 January 2021, the IHRA, together with the European Commission, the United Nations and UNESCO, have launched a global campaign, Protect the Facts. This year-long initiative seeks to raise awareness of the importance of recognizing and countering Holocaust distortion among policymakers, Holocaust-related institutions, civil society, and the general public.
The campaign highlights that countering distortion is all our responsibility and calls upon us all to #ProtectTheFacts and #SayNoToDistortion.
Launch of recommendations for policy and decision makers on recognizing and countering Holocaust distortion
The result of close cooperation among IHRA and external experts, “Recognizing and Countering Holocaust Distortion: Recommendations for Policy and Decision Makers” provides policy and decision makers with the tools they need to begin addressing Holocaust distortion. The publication provides recommendations for identifying and monitoring Holocaust distortion, training programs, strengthening Holocaust-related institutions, and recognizing and responding to distortion online.
The publication Launch was accompanied by a virtual event for IHRA delegates and special guests. Experts, Heads of Delegation and representatives of the IHRA’s Permanent International Partners discussed the challenges of addressing Holocaust distortion, focussing on ways the Recommendations will be implemented and special areas of attention.
“The Recommendations and the Protect the Facts campaign both represent promising first steps toward countering Holocaust distortion worldwide. An initiative of the German Presidency and a part of the Global Task Force Against Holocaust Distorsion that Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for in 2020, these efforts, based on international cooperation, are examples of practice to follow. Holocaust distortion is a problem that does not stop at national borders and requires an international response. I can only encourage the widespread use of these Recommendations, which provide helpful guidance on how to adequately respond to the use of Nazi symbols, 'Camp Auschwitz' T-shirts and yellow Stars of David at demonstrations or co-opted online,” IHRA Chair Ambassador Michaela Küchler said.
Panel discussion on Holocaust distortion
On 27 January 2021, the United Nations, UNESCO and the IHRA jointly commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UNESCO Director-General Azoulay and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to the victims of Nazi persecution in an online ceremony.
The ceremony was followed by an online panel discussion on Holocaust denial and distortion with the participation of Robert Williams, the Chair of the Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, Vice-President of the International Auschwitz Committee Marian Turski, Kindertransport survivor Hella Pick, historian Deborah Lipstadt and author Philippe Sands.
The event was streamed by CNN and via the IHRA’s social media channels.