International solidarity against antisemitism and antigypsyism – Germany’s IHRA Chairmanship in 2020/2021
Michaela Küchler is the Special Representative for Relations with Jewish Organisations, Issues Relating to Antisemitism, International Sinti and Roma Affairs, and Holocaust Remembrance., © Felix Zahn/photothek.net
Germany took over the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) for the first time at the beginning of March 2020. Today, as the chairmanship passes to Greece, we look back on the last year.
2020 was a year full of challenges for international efforts to combat antisemitism and antigypsyism. Incidents of Holocaust distortion and mockery were seen at demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions around the world, while important memorials and educational centres were closed due to the pandemic. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, key projects were brought to fruition under Germany’s Chairmanship:
1. New working definition of antigypsyism
A non-legally binding working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination was approved under Germany’s IHRA Chairmanship together with the delegates of the 34 member countries on 8 October 2020. This definition makes it clear exactly what is covered by the concept of antigypsyism as a certain type of racism, marginalisation and discrimination. It is thus an important tool for identifying and firmly counteracting hatred and discrimination against Sinti and Roma in day-to-day life and on the internet. Meanwhile, Germany has become the first country to also adopt the working definition at national level.
Foreign Minister Maas on the IHRA working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination.
The hope is that this will encourage other countries and civil society organisations to use it.
2. Creation of a Global Task Force Against Holocaust Denial and Distortion
The main focus of Germany’s IHRA Chairmanship was the fight against diminishing and distortion of the Holocaust. Last year, to consolidate and advance international cooperation in this field, Germany created a Global Task Force Against Holocaust Denial and Distortion made up of international experts. In January the Committee issued specific recommendations setting out how to immediately identify and subsequently counteract distortion and diminishing of the Holocaust.
3. Translation, printing and widespread distribution of the IHRA Recommendations for teaching and learning about the Holocaust
As part of Germany’s Chairmanship, the Federal Government published the IHRA’s “Recommendations for teaching and learning about the Holocaust” in German and other languages, both online and offline, for the first time. With many memorials and educational centres forced to close temporarily during the pandemic, digital teaching and learning has become even more important. The brochure can be downloaded here.
4. Establishing the IHRA as an international organisation
Since March 2021, the IHRA has been recognised by the Federal Government as an international institution under the Host State Law. Gaining this recognition was one of the stated goals of Germany’s Chairmanship. The IHRA now enjoys the same status as other international organisations. Following the Cabinet decision in February, Foreign Minister Maas commented:
In so doing, we are sending a signal of international cooperation – which is something we absolutely need when it comes to both remembering the horrors of the past and shaping our future. For only by joining forces can we take action against the growing trend to distort the historical record and discriminate, and help strengthen open and tolerant democracies around the world.