On August 18-23, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) held the 2019 Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Promoting and Protecting Civil and Human Rights, offering a version of the Raphael Lemkin Seminar tailored specifically for members of the U.S. Government. The seminar featured the participation of 18 representatives of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights, multiple Congressional offices, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the State Department. They were joined by 6 teaching fellows-in-residence, 5 instructors, 1 observer, and 5 members of staff. A list of participants with a short biography can be found here, while the seminar’s agenda can be viewed here.
In similar fashion to other entries in AIPR’s Raphael Lemkin series, the week-long training seminar began with two days of instruction and experiences that focused on the “power of place” and historical context brought by the location at the former Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. On Monday and Tuesday, participants attended sessions covering the fundamental concepts of genocide, mass atrocities, and their prevention, as well as historical modules on the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust. Following these modules, attendees took part in guided tours of the grounds of Auschwitz-Birkenau on both of the seminar’s opening days, concluding on Tuesday evening with a visit to the St. Maximilian Kolbe Centre at the Franciscan Monastery in Harmez to view an art exhibit by a survivor of Auschwitz named Marian Kolodziej, as well as a group debriefing session.
The third day of the seminar was devoted to the theme of Identity-Based Marginalization and Violence, with modules covering the prevention of these titular phenomena, the topic of identity in deeply divided societies, and perpetrator psychology. Participants also took part in a group activity oriented towards better understanding personal and social identities. The seminar’s fourth day was dedicated to the continuum of upstream, midstream, and downstream atrocity prevention. In addition to modules that covered the fundamentals of effective prevention during each of the three phases of the continuum, case studies on the representation of Native American experiences in U.S. history, Black-White race relations, and recent federal-level hate crimes reporting were presented. The day finished with a module on the trauma and mental health legacies associated with identity-based marginalization and violence.
The final day opened with a new version of the seminar’s capstone simulation oriented toward the promotion and protection of human and civil rights in the United States. This was followed by a segment dedicated to reviewing the essential lessons learned during the week-long seminar and planning for next steps. The 2019 Raphael Lemkin Seminar was then brought to a close with a presentation containing information on opportunities for continued training and engagement with the Auschwitz Institute.