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Holocaust Remembrance Day in Europe

Gariwo's interviews

The seat of Auschwitz Foundation Belgium

The seat of Auschwitz Foundation Belgium

On Jan 27 the world celebrates the liberation of the Auschwitz camp by the Soviet troops and thus commemorates the victims of Nazifascist horror. Italy, as Gabriele Nissim has written, is a virtuous country where every school, city hall, and smaller or bigger entity celebrates Holocaust Memorial Day. But how is this Day celebrated in the other European countries? 

We started our interviews from Belgium, a country which was invaded in violation of international neutrality and nowadays hosts the institutions of the European Union, which is now seeking new common values to overcome the crisis and go on existing. We interviewed Frédéric Crahay of Auschwitz Foundation Belgium, a non-profit organization founded by the former deportees from Belgium to popularize information and memory about Nazi crimes also through archival documentation. You will find other country-specific interviews in the box below as soon as we publish them around 27 January.  

How is Holocaust Remembrance Day celebrated in Belgium? Is it felt by the population?
27 January, Day of Holocaust Remembrance, is something which is mentioned chiefly by the media in Belgium. There are some organizations which deal with it. The Institut des Veterans, depending on the Ministry of Defence, in particular organizes every year a journey with students and young people to Auschwitz. We at Auschwitz Foundation hold every 27 January a writing contest in which students write theses that are assessed by a jury. The authors of the best compositions come with us to visit the Auschwitz camp. The aim is that of making the Belgian citizens aware of these events and getting them to remember them, and furthermore to warn them about the dangers of extremism. In 2012 we organized a journey to Auschwitz  called the Train of 1000, for thousand students, including Italians. Yearly, we organize a study trip to Auschwitz for a hundred people. This issue will take place from 14 to 18 April 2014. Then, of course, there is also the activity of the European institutions that are based in Brussels. But the majority of the Belgian population is more sensitive to days such as 8 May celebrating the end of the Second World War ( May 8th, has never officially been a holiday widespread in Belgium. It has only been so in schools and administrations. But it was removed several years ago.), for example, the end of the First World War, November 11th, is by far better known in Belgium than May 8th), 1st May and others.

Do the Belgian organizations involved in Memory deal also with genocide cases different from the Holocaust? 
They deal with the Rwanda genocide, in which Belgium was somehow involved, in April on its anniversary. For the Armenian Genocide of 1915 in Belgium there is no law unlike in France, but only a Senate Decree that recognizes this genocide. Anyway we remember also these events. Some commemorate these genocide cases on 27 January, but generally they are commemorated each on its date. There are also commemorations of tragedies such as First World War, even though in such cases we don't talk about genocide. 27 January as I said above anyway is a date that involves people more through the media than through a massive participation. 

Is the Memory of Good considered as well in the Belgian way of commemorating 27 January?
There are some initiatives related to the memory of the Righteous, according to Yad Vashem's criteria, but they are linked above all to the European Institutions rather than to the Belgian society. Of course, though, they are carried out here, in our capital. 

17 January 2014

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Remember the past in order to build a future

The International Committee of the Armenian Righteous. Memory is the Future was founded by Piero Kuciukian in order to commemorate those who went against the genocide of 1915. The title emphasises the function of the memory, which is not a nostalgic look back in history, but a a clear sense of the past to build a future without making old mistakes.
The memory has many solutions and presents conflicting results, either positive or negative depending on how it is treated. Reflections on the previous events help us to understand the present, which means to search for the coordinates that allow us to interpret new situations with awareness of the dangers or opportunities that are triggered by certain mechanisms such as cultural, social and individual. The experience of the genocides of the twentieth century, the phenomenon of totalitarianism, resulted in the devastating world war, the balance of power during the Cold War, provide very precise indications on the geopolitical hegemony and humanitarian frifts to be avoided, while the example of the Righteous, their varied efforts on behalf of the persecuted, the demand for freedom, independence of thought and the instance of the defense of human dignity, are to be taken to avoid the pitfalls of arrogance, denial of truth, the rejection of diversity, closing the other, unilateral decision.

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