“We share a commitment to throw light on the still obscured shadows of the Holocaust.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
7 May 1998
IHRA is established in Stockholm through the initiative of former Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. In conjunction with the Stockholm meeting on the Holocaust and "Tell Ye Your Children" of the Living History Project, Persson proposed to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK as well as former US President Bill Clinton that their countries join an effort to foster international cooperation on disseminating information about the Holocaust.
Government delegations from the USA, UK and Sweden held their first talks in the presence of Professor Yehuda Bauer. He was asked to become an independent Academic Advisor to this new international body.
At the conclusion of this meeting, it was agreed to "collaborate closely with NGOs and others active in disseminating knowledge about the Holocaust" as well as to "focus international cooperation on Holocaust educational activities, public activities, testimonies of survivors, to find proper ways to reach out to young people, to launch a global survey on Holocaust education to be presented in national reports and cooperation on how to use the Internet in connection with these activities."
It was decided that decisions taken by the IHRA would be done in consensus.
25 September 1998
Second Working Group meeting of the IHRA held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington DC. In addition to Sweden, the UK and USA, two new delegations also participated in the meeting: Germany and Israel.
Chairmanship of the IHRA, now five member states, was passed from Sweden to the USA.
The Working Group agreed that the focus of the IHRA should include remembrance and research in addition to education, so adopted the full formal title of IHRA for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
There was agreement on a set of deliverables to be presented at the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, including a directory of organizations involved in Holocaust education; an insert to the Swedish book "Tell Ye Your Children"; a guide to archival material; a set of suggested Holocaust education guidelines; a proposal for an International Day of Remembrance; a declaration on archival openness and a declaration on promoting Holocaust education.
Conference calls were organized among the five member countries every two weeks in an effort to coordinate efforts and review progress prior to the next meeting.
3 December 1998
Third Working Group meeting of the IHRA held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in conjunction with the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets.
During this meeting, the following declaration was issued: "Holocaust education, remembrance and research strengthen humanity's ability to absorb and learn from the dark lessons of the past, so that we can ensure that similar horrors are never again repeated."
The declaration also noted that "we are committing our countries to encourage parents, teachers, and civic, political and religious leaders to undertake with renewed vigor and attention Holocaust education, remembrance and research, with a special focus on our own countries' histories." Other countries were called upon to strengthen their efforts in these fields and to undertaken new ones where necessary.
A declaration on archival openness and access was also issued, calling upon governments to join the IHRA "in endorsing the importance of full archival openness, and in undertaking to work toward the goal of making all documentation bearing on the Holocaust and the fate of Nazi-confiscated assets available to researchers. The adoption of December 31, 1999, as a target date to meet this goal will reinforce the commitment of humanity to learn from the history of this century as we enter a new millennium."
The first product of cooperation under the IHRA, an International Directory of Organizations in Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, was distributed at this meeting and subsequently made available on the IHRA website. This was compiled under the leadership of the United States and Sweden with assistance from Israel and Germany.
Enlargement of the IHRA was discussed in detail since countries such as the Netherlands, France, Poland, Italy as well as others had expressed interest, either officially or informally, in joining.
At this meeting, Sweden announced its intention to host a conference that would "figure prominently on the IHRA agenda" in late 1999 or early 2000.