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Director-General co-leads historic visit to Auschwitz


UNESCO strengthens Holocaust remembrance and human rights education programmes

A delegation of 150 eminent personalities and representatives of governments from 40 countries, headed by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Chairman of the Islamic Conference Organization, will make a commemorative visit on February 1 to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi German concentration camp in Poland. The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, will lead the visit with Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris, Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, President of the Aladdin Project, and David de Rothschild, President of the Aladdin Fund.

The visit takes place shortly after the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, marked by a commemoration ceremony in memory of the victims of the Holocaust on January 26 at UNESCO Headquarters.

On this occasion, the Director-General announced the strengthening of UNESCO’s education programme on Holocaust remembrance and human rights thanks to new funds received from Israel for this purpose. This programme develops school curricula and provides training for teachers about the Holocaust and human rights, with the goal of promoting a culture of peace.

UNESCO also organized two exhibitions at its Paris Headquarters for the anniversary (24 January to 1 February). “The Shoah in Europe” gives an overview of the Shoah from the rise of Nazism to the Nuremberg trials. The second exhibition presents the original manuscript of the diary kept by Sorbonne student Helen Berr from April 1942 to February 1944. Helen and her family were deported to Auschwitz in March 1944.

“As the poet and philosopher George Santayana said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ The genocide of the Jewish people was a unique and paradigmatic event that helps us to understand other historical genocides and other atrocities worldwide that originate in racism and hatred. If we understand them, we can avert them in the future,” said Irina Bokova.

The purpose of the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau is to underline the horrific consequences of Nazi and Fascist ideology on the Jewish people and countless members of other minorities, and to inspire political, religious and intellectual leaders around the world to combat the denial of the Holocaust and all forms of intolerance and dehumanization.

In addition to President Wade, the delegation will include Deputy UN Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, former Croatian President Stepjan Mesic, former Mauritanian President Mohamed Vall, Mevlut Cavusoglu (Turkey), President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; the representatives of the heads of state of Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Turkey; and the mayors of twelve cities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The visit takes place at the joint invitation of UNESCO, the City Hall of Paris and the Aladdin Project, an intercultural project supported by UNESCO that was launched in March 2009 to counter all forms of negationism and conflicts of memory and to promote rapprochement of cultures, particularly between Jews and Muslims, on the basis of mutual knowledge and mutual respect.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1979.

A press conference will be held 3.15 pm at the Paris City Hall on Monday 31 January, the day before the visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Speakers will include :

* Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
* Abdoulaye Wade, President of the Republic of Senegal, Chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference
* Bertrand Delanoë, Mayor of Paris
* Asha-Rose Migiro, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
* Anne-Marie Revcolevschi, President of the Aladdin Project


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