Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021: keeping the memory alive


76 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the rise of disinformation and hate speech makes the memory of the Holocaust more necessary than ever

On this day, 76 years ago, Soviet troops arrived at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the world woke up to an unspeakable horror: the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators. The infamous extermination camp still held some 7,000 prisoners, survivors who stood up to tell us what had happened, so it would never happen again. Since 2005, when the UN General Assembly proclaimed 27 January International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, today is a day to preserve their memory and keep the truth alive, especially in times when we witness a global rise of anti-Semitism, disinformation and hateful discourses.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen how alongside the virus, hatred against many minorities across the world escalated, including by proliferation of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and hate speech against Jews, in particular on social media. We have also seen how despicable theories to delegitimise history through Holocaust denial persist, including in Europe”, said EU High Representative Josep Borrell in a statement to mark the date.

This year´s UN theme, “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust”, focuses on the process of recovery and reconstitution of individuals, community, and systems of justice that took place after the Holocaust. 

“Integral to the process of reconstitution was the accurate recording of the historical account of what happened before and during the Holocaust”, reads the UN dedicated website, which announces several panel discussions around the Holocaust taking place these days. “Against a global context of rising antisemitism and increasing levels of disinformation and hate speech, Holocaust education and remembrance is even more urgent, as is the development of an historical literacy to counter repeated attempts to deny and distort the history of the Holocaust”.

The European Union has recently stepped up its action against antisemitism and discrimination with an upcoming EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and the newly adopted EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024). Outside Europe, the EU and the UN work together to maintain effective remembrance policies, to protect freedom of religion or belief, to prevent genocide, to protect historic and religious sites, and to promote education, documentation and research about the Holocaust.

As survivors pass away, technology helps keep their memory alive

To mark this important day, the EU Delegation to the UN and the Israeli Mission in Geneva, together with other Jewish organisations, have organised a very special testimony exhibition. From 25–31 January, Holocaust survivors will be shown telling their stories on the walls of the “Beth Yaacov” Great Synagogue of Geneva. 

Thanks to this innovative video project, entitled ‘Dimensions in Testimony’ and developed by the USC Shoah Foundation, it is now possible to engage in virtual conversations with the last witnesses of the Holocaust horrors –and will continue to be so even after they pass away. It is not magic, but an interactive technology allowing people to ask questions that prompt real-time responses from pre-recorded video interviews with Holocaust survivors. 

For those not in Geneva these days, it is also possible to visit the dedicated website and have a “personal” conversation with two Holocaust survivors.

“We need to ensure to keep their memories alive as the number of survivors is dwindling. This is why the project of the USC Shoah Foundation is so valuable”, underlined the EU Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Walter Stevens.

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