FRESH AIR

Australia represented as states recommit to Holocaust remembrance

Jan 20, 2020 | Naomi Levin

Jewish people arriving at Auschwitz. 
Photo: Yad Vashem
Jewish people arriving at Auschwitz. Photo: Yad Vashem

The Australian Government recommitted to remembering the Holocaust and acknowledging contemporary antisemitism at a meeting in Europe this week.

For the first time since becoming a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2019, Australia participated as a full member at the IHRA Ministerial Meeting held in Brussels. Australia was represented by Justin Brown, Australia’s Ambassador to the European Union, NATO, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Ambassador Brown – together with representatives of 34 other countries – endorsed the 2020 IHRA Ministerial Declaration.

Delegates at the IHRA Ministerial Meeting 2020 in Brussels.

This declaration looked both to the past and at current challenges.

75 years after the liberation of Nazi concentration camps in Germany and eastern Europe, it pledged “to the victims and survivors that they shall never be forgotten and that their legacy will be kept alive”.

Representatives also promised to promote Holocaust education, safeguard the historical record of the Holocaust and continue efforts to hold significant Holocaust commemorations.

The ongoing battle against global antisemitism – coming from the far left and the far right – was also acknowledged at the conference.

The IHRA delegates expressed “our deepest concerns about rising antisemitism” and accepted responsibility “as governments to continue working together to counter Holocaust denial and distortion, antisemitism, and all forms of racism and discrimination that undermine fundamental democratic principles”. They added “We will work closely with experts, civil society and our international partners to further these goals.”

In the past year, people have been murdered in antisemitic incidents in the United States and Germany. Globally, online antisemitism, particularly spread by the far-right via social media, continues unabated. And in the political sphere, British and American Jews have been subject to attacks by extreme left political leaders trying to disguise their antisemitism behind a flimsy veil of Israel criticism.

The declaration also reaffirmed IHRA’s founding document, the 20-year-old Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum. AIJAC’s Director of International and Community Affairs Jeremy Jones was a participant in that forum.

Lord Eric Pickles, the British Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues reminded participants of their important duty: “At a time when the last survivor won’t be with us, maybe in a decade or so, it passes to us to make sure that the truth is heard,” he said.

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