On November 11-17, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) organized the annual Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar for the Prevention of Genocide in Oświęcim and Krakow, Poland. The 2018 edition of the seminar involved the participation of 21 attendees from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Romania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, the U.S., Uganda, Uruguay, and Vietnam, alongside 6 fellows-in-residence, 4 observers, as well as AIPR staff and instructors. A complete list of participants with their short biography can be found here, while the seminar’s agenda can be viewed here.
As in previous years, the seminar’s curriculum was divided thematically on a day-by-day basis, with the final day featuring a capstone simulation exercise. The focus of the first two instructional days of the seminar was on the “power of place” and historical context of the former Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Participants benefitted from Interactive modules on the concepts of genocide, atrocities, and prevention, as well as historical modules on the Holocaust before taking guided study tours of the camp grounds. As a new addition to the seminar program in 2018, participants visited the St. Maximilian Kolbe Centre at the Franciscan Monastery in Harmez to view an art exhibit by a survivor of Auschwitz entitled “The Labyrinth” by Marian Kolodziej. The second day then concluded with a debriefing module for participants on their experiences thus far.
The second, third, and fourth days of the seminar were dedicated to the upstream, midstream, and downstream prevention of genocide and mass atrocities, respectively. Wednesday, which was devoted to upstream prevention strategies, began with an introduction to risk factors for genocide and atrocity crimes. Following this, participants were guided through modules devoted to early warning, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), and policy options for prevention, as well as recent developments and emerging trends in the R2P sphere. The day concluded with a module on National Mechanisms for the Prevention of Genocide, highlighting the importance of their institutionalization within state structures of governance.
Thursday, which focused on to midstream prevention, featured an activity on identity and the role that it plays in prevention before Dr. James Waller delivered his modules on “Becoming Evil” and response tools. The day finished with a pair of regional focuses, with a module on challenges in contemporary Bosnia-Herzegovina and the ongoing crisis in Burma. On Friday, the thematic emphasis shifted to downstream prevention. The day opened with an introduction to transitional justice from a prevention perspective and a module on the role of retributive justice in atrocity prevention. Participants then engaged with a segment on trauma and the mental health legacies of conflict before ending the day with an interactive module on the role of memory and memorialization in transitional justice.
After a return to Krakow, the seminar’s final day opened with a capstone simulation exercise, giving seminar participants the chance to review the concepts, strategies, and best practices that they learned throughout the week and put them into action. The program then officially ended with closing remarks and updates from Auschwitz Institute staff on further support and training opportunities.