“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
Learn more about the activities of IHRA Chair Dr. Mario Silva in his latest blog post below.
New Post – 5 June 2013
I have had a busy month of May, undertaking several country visits for preparation meetings in advance of our Plenary, which is taking place only days away in Berlin.
My first meeting when I landed in Berlin on May 15 was at the Foreign Office with Victoria Zimmermann von Siefart (German Head of Delegation to IHRA) and Dr. Kathrin Meyer to discuss relevant issues for the upcoming IHRA Plenary. It was a very productive meeting, but the next day Kathrin and I were off to Latvia.
Our first visit was to the Jānis Lipke Museum in Riga. Lipke smuggled and hid Jews and was honoured as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. We also visited the memorial site of the Rumbula massacre, where about 25,000 Jews were killed. We met with the Ministry of Education and the Head of Delegation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss upcoming Plenary issues.
I then travelled to Vilnius, where I had meetings with the Lithuanian Head of Delegation to the IHRA, Neris Germanis, the Executive of the Lithuanian Jewish community, key officials in the Prime Minister;s Office, and academics working on Holocaust issues in Lithuania. Lithuania, like other Baltic states, had their own distinct and highly developed Jewish culture, with a population of some 160,000 and by the time Soviet troops reoccupied Lithuania in the summer of 1944, 90 percent of Lithuanian Jews, one of the highest victim rates in Europe, were murdered.
I am thankful for all the assistance that our Canadian Ambassador John Morrison and our Charge d’Affaires in Lithuania Kevin Hamilton provided during my visits to Latvia and Lithuania.
The next day I was off to Tirana to attend a High Level meeting of OSCE on the topic of antisemitism, where I delivered a speech on the strengthening Holocaust remembrance efforts as an important means of combating antisemitism. I had an opportunity to have a bilateral meeting with the Albanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who indicated Albania’s interest in joining IHRA as an observer. I also spoke with Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk from Ukraine, who is presently the Chair of the OSCE, regarding the importance of an eventual Ukrainian membership in IHRA.
My next meeting was in Zagreb, where I spoke at an international conference on the Historical Experience of Roma in Europe with the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Discrimination of Roma, held as part of the Presidency of the Republic of Croatia of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015. I delivered a speech on IHRA’s efforts to raise awareness of the Roma/Sinti genocide. I am thankful to Canada’s Ambassador to Croatia, Louise LaRocque, for all her assistance.
In Greece, I met with the Greek Head of Delegation to IHRA, Photini Constantopoulou, along with many members of the Greek Jewish community. I also met with the Minister of Justice to discuss the proposed bill that would outlaw public incitement against people because of their race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and impose jail sentences of up to six years on offenders. I am grateful for all the assistance of Canadian Ambassador Robert Peck and his team in Athens.
My final country visit before returning to Canada was to Israel to speak at the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem. At the Global Forum, I conveyed IHRA’s commitment to combat the different manifestations of the current antisemitism. With the support of Canadian Ambassador Paul Hunt, we had very constructive meetings arranged with several key organizations, including Yad Vashem. In addition, several IHRA HoDs were in attendance, including Estonia, the UK and Serbia, which provided Kathrin Meyer and I with an opportunity to discuss issues related to the Berlin Plenary.