The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) observes January 27, 2021 as the 16th International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945, the United Nations General Assembly established this annual International Day in November of 2005 through General Assembly Resolution 60/7.
The theme of the 2021 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust is “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust.” In addition to focusing on the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, including processes of recovery, reconstitution, and rebuilding, the 2021 International Day places a specific emphasis on the importance of accurately recording history and the need to actively combat efforts to deny and/or distort these accounts. The theme of this year’s remembrance also reflects the urgent need for Holocaust education, as well as the vital contributions made by survivors, amidst rising levels of disinformation and hate speech around the world.
In his message in commemoration of this year’s International Day, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres delivered a call to action:
This year’s anniversary takes place under the shadow of the COVID-19 Pandemic which has revealed longstanding fractures and injustices in our societies and contributed to a resurgence of antisemitism and xenophobia. The Holocaust was the culmination of two millennia of discrimination, attacks, expulsions, and periodic mass killings of Jews. It should have ended antisemtitism for good, but it did not. Antisemtitism, unfortunately, remains alive and well.
Today, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are resurgent, organizing and recruiting across borders, intensifying their efforts to deny, distort, and rewrite history, including the Holocaust. The COVID-19 Pandemic has given them new opportunities to target minorities, based on religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, and immigration status. We must make urgent joint efforts to stop them.
The 2021 International Day of Commemoration’s theme is reflected throughout the work of the Auschwitz Institute, which recognizes the importance of “downstream” (i.e. post-conflict) measures to the effective prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities in the future. This theme is especially apparent in the Raphael Lemkin Seminar series, AIPG’s longest running program. The Lemkin Seminar series invites government officials from around the world to join Auschwitz Institute instructors and other atrocity prevention experts on the grounds of the former extermination camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau for a week-long program that connects the powerful legacy of the Holocaust to the development and implementation of contemporary policies and practices that work to protect populations from the horrors of these crimes. As part of AIPG’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2021 Global Raphael Lemkin Seminar will be conducted virtually.