The British Ambassador John Kittmer and the Canadian Ambassador Robert Peck, co-hosted an event at the British Residence
Following Canada’s active and dedicated leadership, the UK assumed the annual Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on 25 February. The handover between Dr Mario Silva (Canada) and Sir Andrew Burns (UK) was officially carried out at a ceremony in Berlin.
On 26 March 2014, the British Ambassador, John Kittmer, and the Canadian Ambassador, Robert Peck, co-hosted an event at the British Residence, in the presence of representatives of the Jewish community, the Greek State, the diplomatic corps, academics and the media, to mark the handover and draw attention to the work of Holocaust remembrance in Greece. In their short addresses the two Ambassadors looked back at the achievements of the Canadian Chairmanship and outlined the priorities for the British leadership.
The British Ambassador John Kittmer said:
Here in Greece, I hope that the UK Chairmanship can be a focus of inspiration and support to efforts by the Greek people in general and the Jewish Communities of Greece in particular to continue to understand and commemorate the terrible reality and legacy of the Holocaust in this nation, where so many had their lives so terribly wrenched from them.
The Canadian Ambassador Robert Peck added:
As a legacy of Canada’s Chairmanship of the IHRA, I am proud to have collaborated with the Jewish Museum of Greece, the Jewish Community of Ioannina, the Municipality of Ioannina and the New Media Lab of the Stavros Niarchos Chair of Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver for the development of an iPhone APP entitled Ioannina’s Jewish Legacy: Yesterday and Today. This APP will bring the history and tragedy of Ioannina’s Jewish Community to Greece and the world as well as serve as a tool to promote they city’s history as an important tourist destination.
During the event the documentary ‘No place on earth’ by Janet Tobias was screened. The film describes the story of the longest uninterrupted underground survival in recorded human history, with five Jewish families spending nearly a year and a half in pitch-black caves to escape the Nazis in southwestern Ukraine. Among the aims of the new IHRA Chair for 2014 will be to intensify work on IHRA’s multi-year plan and extend the influence of IHRA beyond Europe and North America and to strengthen the efforts of the IHRA’s 31 member states to promote education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust, to strengthen the moral commitment of peoples, and the political commitment of governments to ensure that future generations can understand the causes of the Holocaust and reflect on its consequences. At the end of the week (28-29 March) the British and Canadian Ambassadors will join other members of the diplomatic corps in attending the commemorative events at Ioannina to mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Jewish community of Ioannina by the Nazi Occupiers. In the framework of these events the British and Canadian Embassies have co-sponsored two photography exhibitions.
Notes for editors:
- The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to place political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research both nationally and internationally. IHRA (formerly the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, or ITF) was initiated in 1998 by former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson who decided to establish an international organization that would expand Holocaust education worldwide; he also developed the idea of an international forum of governments interested in discussing Holocaust education. The Forum, which took place in Stockholm on 27-29 January 2000, was attended by 23 Heads of State or Prime Ministers and 14 Deputy Prime Ministers or Ministers from 46 governments. A joint declaration was unanimously adopted, and the Stockholm Declaration is the foundation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
- The UK was one of the three founding members of IHRA and an original signatory of the Stockholm Declaration of 2000. The UK held the IHRA Chairmanship for the first time in 1999.
- IHRA currently has 31 member countries and five observer countries. Membership is open to all countries, and members must be committed to the Stockholm Declaration and to the implementation of national policies and programs in support of Holocaust education, remembrance, and research. Member countries are encouraged to develop multilateral partnerships and to share best practices.
- Assuming the IHRA Chair on behalf of the UK Sir Andrew Burns, the UK’s Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, presented its programme for the year in a White Paper.
- On 27 January 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron launched a Holocaust Commission. The Commission will work to ensure Britain has a permanent memorial to the Holocaust and educational resources for future generations. It will report its findings to the Prime Minister by the end of the year.
- The UK has long played a leading role internationally on Holocaust education, remembrance and research. In 1991 England was the first European country to make teaching about the Holocaust a mandatory part of the history curriculum in state secondary schools, whilst in 2009 it was the first country to undertake extensive national research into Holocaust teaching and learning.
- Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked in the UK since 2001, having been inaugurated the previous year by the then prime minister.
- The UK has an extensive network of active and innovative organizations working in the field of Holocaust education, remembrance and research.