The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s latest bi-annual plenary meeting took place in Bern between the 27th and 30th November this year. At the plenary, Alex Maws captured a few delegates’ thoughts on ways to approach the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust without distorting the historical significance and specificity of the past.

Stephen Smith, Executive Director of USC Shoah Foundation, USA – one of the largest collections of Holocaust testimony in the world – reflects on his recent experience meeting Rohingya refugees and how the work of the Foundation has helped shaped ways to tell their stories.

Dr Lena Casiez, Research Officer at Camp des Milles, France and Fellow at Aix Marseille University shares how she and colleagues have considered the balance between teaching about the past and making the Holocaust seem relevant for visitors today.

The team at the Memorial Site of Camp des Milles have recently created a digital interactive tool called ‘Three Steps from Racism to Genocide’. 

Stefan Andersson from Living History Forum explains how he and colleagues have been working with recently arrived refugees in Sweden.

Finally, Belle Jarniewski from the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre in Canada discusses a symposium the organisation runs for high school students, which examines both the Holocaust and more recent conflicts, and particularly the difficulty refugees have had trying to enter Canada historically and today.

Belle Pinchas Kobra

Belle (centre) is pictured here with the young Kurdish woman she speaks about in the video (Korba Rahimi) and Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter – who is one of the individuals captured in USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive biographies ‘New Dimensions of Testimony’ .

  • To what extent is it important that Holocaust education is concerned with the lessons that can be learned from the past for today?
  • How have you integrated contemporary relevance into your own educational contexts? 
  • To what issues do we need to be sensitive in order to avoid over-simplified comparisons between the past and present?

We would love to hear your experiences related to this topic. Please leave comments below or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook.

Also on Seeking Protection: 

Belle Jarniewski reviews an educational resource related to the establishment of the U.S. War Refugee Board

Find out more about how the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual Archive can help reflect on current situations in relation to material about Jewish refugees from Czechoslovakia 

Discover more about the IHRA’s plenary meetings with a summary of the previous gathering

Featured image: the IHRA plenary, Bern 2017 taken by Robert Williams.