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Genocide Switzerland to chair Holocaust alliance

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter lays a wreath in the 'Hall of Remembrances' in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem in 2013

(Keystone)

Switzerland will preside over the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2017. Its candidacy was accepted by the 31 member states at a plenary meeting in Debrecen, Hungary, on Thursday. 

Switzerland, which has been an IHRA member since 2004, will take over the chairmanship from Romania. The head of the Swiss delegation, Benno Bättig, secretary-general of the foreign ministry, will act as chairman. 

Following a foreign ministry proposal approved by the cabinet on October 14, Switzerland will organise two IHRA plenary meetings in 2017, the first in Geneva and the second in Bern. 

“Switzerland looks forward to welcoming some 200 IHRA delegates to strengthen our shared commitment against genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia, as set out in the IHRA charter (Stockholm Declaration),” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday. 

“Furthermore, at the beginning of 2016, the University of Teacher Education Lucerne will host an international IHRA research conference on education about the Holocaust.” 

The IHRA aims to promote, especially in its member countries, historical research and education about the Holocaust and to preserve the memory of victims through commemorations and memorials. It is an intergovernmental organisation that works closely with institutional partners such as the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and UNESCO. 

Remembrance Day 

The foreign ministry said Switzerland was very active in the IHRA’s priority areas. 

“In 2003, the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education designated January 27, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, as Holocaust Remembrance Day in Swiss schools. On this day, various activities are traditionally organised in several cantons and the Swiss president delivers a speech.” 

In addition, the foreign ministry said it actively supported the publication of previously unpublished memoirs by Holocaust survivors which were handed over to the Swiss president in January. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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