Ambassador Benno Bättig, head of the Swiss delegation to the IHRA and Secretary General of the FDFA, took over the chairmanship of the IHRA from Romania at an official ceremony held at the Swiss embassy in Berlin. At the handover ceremony, the new IHRA chair indicated that various activities were planned “to reach young people and to ensure that the past remains part of the present.”
Switzerland has declared teaching and education, young people and social media as the priorities for its IHRA chairmanship. It aims to use modern communications technology to convey knowledge about the Holocaust to young people and to bear in remembrance the crimes committed by the Nazi regime against Jews, Roma, Sinti and other minorities. “It is our responsibility and duty to give young people, who are the citizens of the future, the skills to distinguish between what is important and that which is not and between reality and the virtual world,” remarked Ambassador Bättig.
As part of its chairmanship, Switzerland will organise international seminars on education at the University of Teacher Education in Lausanne which will cover information and teaching about the Holocaust. This conference aims to provide ideas on how to convey this complex topic appropriately and successfully in teaching. A plenary meeting of the IHRA will also take place in both Geneva and Bern during the Swiss chairmanship as well as an IHRA conference at the University of Teacher Education in Bern on the massacre carried out by the Nazi regime on people with disabilities.
The IHRA is an intergovernmental organisation with 31 member states. It aims to promote research and education about the Holocaust in the member states and to hold the victims in remembrance through commemorative ceremonies and memorials. The IHRA’s institutional partners include the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and UNESCO. Switzerland has been a member of the IHRA since 2004 and has been actively committed to the organisation’s objectives since its accession as its 2015 report to the IHRA underlines. For example, it organised an IHRA international conference on educational research about the Holocaust in Lucerne in 2016 where the findings of the latest research on teaching and learning about the Holocaust from all over the world were discussed. The results of this conference were published in a book that was presented at today’s ceremony in Berlin (“Research in Teaching and Learning about the Holocaust”, published by Monique Eckmann from Geneva). Switzerland is also supporting the publication of a collection of memoirs by Holocaust survivors as well as two touring exhibitions.
Since Switzerland joined the IHRA, the FDFA has met with key partners from federal government, the cantons and non-governmental organisations in the context of an advisory group. This group was involved in planning and determining Switzerland’s future IHRA chairmanship. Close cooperation with the group will also be a key part of Switzerland’s work during its IHRA chairmanship. Switzerland will hand over the chairmanship of the organisation to Italy in March 2018.
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