“We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
Germany believes cooperation between people from a range of professional backgrounds is of great value. Its IHRA delegation therefore includes government officials, experts and civil society representatives.
ITF Permanent Office,
Lindenstrasse 20-25, in Berlin
In 2007 the ITF accepted Germany's offer to host its Permanent Office. The Office was formerly located on the premises of the Topography of Terror Foundation on Stresemannstrasse, and has now moved to new premises near the Jewish Museum, on Lindenstrasse, Kreuzberg. Hence the city where the Holocaust was once conceived and planned has now become an important base for the organization dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and reflection. Foreign Minister Steinmeier gave a speech at the opening ceremony on 11th March 2008.
Germany knows the magnitude of its responsibility for the worst crimes in European history and strives to come to grips with this legacy. If there is anything Germany can share from its own experience, it is this: facing up to the grim truth of what took place is the only path to reconciliation. A past that is not examined fully and honestly will remain a burden for the future.
Responsibility for school education lies with the governments of Germany's 16 Länder or federal states. On the subject of the Holocaust, however, school curricula throughout Germany are very similar. At different stages the Holocaust must be covered extensively in history and civics and may also feature in German literature, religion or ethics classes. Aspects of Holocaust history may also be dealt with in biology, art and music classes. The Standing Conference of State Education Ministers, a member of Germany's ITF working group, is responsible for curriculum coordination.
Schools are encouraged to organize visits to memorial sites, documentation centers and museums. On-site educators and special projects ensure that pupils derive maximum benefit from such visits.
Every year several hundred thousand people visit internationally renowned institutions such as the concentration camp memorials at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, the House of the Wannsee Conference or the Topography of Terror Foundation. Smaller local or regional memorial sites are also very important for they give visitors vivid insights into the persecution and deportation of Jewish families in their own neighbourhood.
Teachers are encouraged to use not only textbooks but also a variety of educational materials available from government bodies and NGOs - including DVDs and other media - focusing on primary sources. With a view to improving Holocaust education, teacher training institutions, state agencies and memorials also organize seminars for teachers. All educational actors are increasingly aware of international best practices. A group of students visiting the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.
Germany conserves over 2000 memorial sites bearing witness to the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime. Approximately 200 of these are deemed of national importance, including former concentration camps such as Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Oranienburg. However, smaller sites where books were burned or Jews went into hiding or where euthanasia or deportations took place also receive special attention, since these, too, enhance historical understanding. They include sites ranging from cemeteries to venues associated with the perpetrators, since presenting the reality of Nazi crimes is intrinsic to any remembrance work. The memorial sites are today an integral component of Germany's political culture. Remembrance of the Holocaust and the Nazi rule of terror is recognised and firmly established as a national responsibility (www.memorial-museums.net).
Germany has chosen to concentrate on conserving and presenting to the public authentic sites of Nazi terror. That is why there is no central Holocaust museum in Germany. However, when German reunification was achieved in 1990, civil society and government cooperated on creating a Memorial in Berlin dedicated to the murdered Jews of Europe. It now serves as a place of information and reflection also for the many visitors to the German capital.
27th January, the day Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops, is the national day of remembrance for the victims of the Nazi regime. Every year a special ceremony is held in the German Bundestag attended by representatives of all branches of government.
9th November 1938, the "Night of the Pogrom" or "Night of Broken Glass", was a further milestone in the systematic persecution of Germany's Jewish community. On the anniversary of this day commemorative events are held all over the country.
In over 300 German cities artist Gunter Demnig has made remembrance part of the cityscape with commemorative brass plaques known as "stumbling stones". These small golden tablets bearing the names of Holocaust victims are embedded in the pavement in front of their last place of residence. Some critics feel that walking over the stumbling stones means stepping on victims' names and thus dishonouring their memory. Others cherish the plaque as as a highly visible means of paying tribute to former neighbours who met such a violent end far from their home city.
OSCE Antisemitism Conference in Berlin, November 2004
The OSCE Antisemitism Conference was attended by over 900 experts, (policy-makers, researchers and practitioners) from more than 60 countries; as well as 150 NGOs. This turnout showed the determination of the Organisation's 55 participating states to combat Antisemitism.
The Conference reached consensus on a declaration categorically condemning all acts motivated by Antisemitism or other forms of religious or racial hatred. The document also included a commitment to promote appropriate educational programmes
Holocaust research has made considerable progress and historians now have access to a broad range of reliable resources and expertise. Holocaust research today covers all aspects of this complex historical period and is very different from what it was forty years ago, when its main focus was the perpetrators and how the Holocaust could have come about.
Over the past twenty years German historians have increasingly turned their attention to the Holocaust victims themselves, seeking to learn more about their individual fates and understand survivors' perspectives. A great variety of autobiographical literature now exists, which constitutes an important source for research. Findings based on access to archives in Central and Eastern Europe have contributed to much outstanding work on Holocaust research. Scholars such as Wolfgang Benz in Berlin, Norbert Frei in Bochum/Jena and Ulrich Herbert in Freiburg have motivated young historians to explore new research directions. This has resulted in seminal publications by Götz Aly, Christian Gerlach, Peter Longerich, Dieter Pohl and Thomas Sandkühler, to name but a few. A new generation of books and encyclopedias aimed at a wider public document recent research finding.
Since 2006 the Freie Universität Berlin has been cooperating with the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education at the University of Southern California (USC). The Freie Universität is the first institution in Europe to provide access to the Visual History Archive with more than 52000 video testimonies on persecution during the Holocaust. As an increasingly important resource for future generations of researchers, the Visual History Archive can since 2008 also be consulted at the Center for Research on Antisemitism of the Technische Universität Berlin.