The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) marks January 27, 2017 as the 12th International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The annual observance was created in 2005 by the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with the historical anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Death Camp. The theme for this year’s International Day of Commemoration is “educating for a better future.” In line with the academic approach of the Auschwitz Institute, the 2017 commemoration places an emphasis on the value of the Holocaust as a teaching tool that highlights universal elements and experiences in the fight to prevent future episodes of genocide and other mass atrocities.
In an address following the 2016 observance of the International Day of Commemoration, Ban Ki-moon, then-Secretary General of the United Nations remarked that:
We must ask ourselves why and how this could happen and together work to prevent such atrocities from happening again. As Primo Levi so memorably said: “It happened, thus it can happen again.” I have been reminded of this stark truth many times as Secretary-General.
I have visited the genocide memorial in Kigali, Rwanda. I have been to the site of the massacre at Srebrenica, in Bosnia Herzegovina, and the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, in Cambodia. Today, I am deeply disturbed by the massacres in South Sudan, by the continued carnage in Syria, and by the atrocities being inflicted by Daesh and Boko Haram.
I see international humanitarian law being flouted on a global scale. But I do not see the international community holding the perpetrators to account. The world faces a crisis of protection. That is why it is so important that we never forget the lessons of the Holocaust.
Resolution A/60, which established the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, encourages member states to “to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.” This mirrors the essential role that education plays to the mission and programming of the Auschwitz Institute, including its newest program devoted to the development of Educational Policies.
Dr. Jim Waller, AIPR’s Director of Academic Programs, explains:
The Day of Commemoration is a reminder of the pledge that nations made to “Never Again” allow atrocities such as the Holocaust to occur. The reality, sadly, seems to be “ever again” as we watch tragedies continue to unfold in Burundi, Syria, Myanmar, and South Sudan, among others. The theme of this year’s Commemoration – to educate for a better future – is a crucial part of our vision to build a world that prevents genocide and other mass atrocities.