The organisation of regular ministerial seminars is one of the most outstanding features of the Council of Europe’s work on the teaching of Holocaust remembrance and the prevention of crimes against humanity.
The aim is to encourage the education ministers of the various signatory states to the 1954 Cultural Convention to firmly establish compulsory teaching of Holocaust remembrance as a preventive measure against the spread of crimes against humanity.
The ministerial seminars are held at authentic memorial sites and thus constitute “awareness-raising actions”. They are the opportunity for ministers to present their initiatives on the matter, and hence to enter into the dynamics of progress and emulation.These authentic memorial sites are located close to towns and cities whose cultural heritage reflects the former existence of a Jewish cultural heritage. These seminars thus enable participants to discover the wealth of a Jewish cultural heritage that bears witness to life before the Holocaust.
1st ministerial seminar "Day of Remembrance", Strasbourg, 18 October 2002
This first seminar to be organised by the Council of Europe was attended by 36 member states represented at the highest level. In addition to the Secretary General, Mr Walter Schwimmer, and the French minister-delegate for schools, Mr Xavier Darcos, Mrs Simone Veil, President of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, and Professor Yehouda Bauer also made speeches and academic presentations. The day before the seminar, a colloquy organised in co-operation with the Task Force for International Co-operation on Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) and chaired by France had brought together artists, writers, film-makers, directors and museum curators to study the role of artistic creation in teaching about the Holocaust.
2nd ministerial seminar "Teaching remembrance through cultural heritage", Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, 4-6 May 2005
Organised a few weeks after the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz, this ministerial seminar was extremely successful in terms of the participation of ministers and senior government officials. A number of charismatic figures also took part in the event, including Elie Wiesel, Cardinal Lustiger and Marek Edelmann. After the participants had recognised the importance of the subject and the difficulties which its proper teaching involved, several national proposals were made for establishing teacher training programmes.
3rd ministerial seminar "Teaching remembrance: cultural heritage - yesterday, today and tomorrow", Prague and Terezin, 24-25 April 2006
National delegations attended this ministerial seminar at two venues, Prague and Terezin. The discovery of drawings made by children and of plays and concerts performed in Terezin during the Holocaust and a presentation of the educational activities proposed by the Terezin Education Centre served to emphasise the importance of a multidisciplinary approach (lessons in visual arts, music etc) to teaching about the Holocaust. An overview highlighted two approaches to teaching about the Holocaust: a “historical” approach in the strict sense and a second, broader approach based on education for democratic citizenship. The contacts between ministries and the Council of Europe on this occasion resulted once again in some concrete proposals for co-operation.
4th ministerial seminar "Teaching remembrance - for a Europe of freedom and rule of law", Nuremberg and Dachau, Germany, 5-7 November 2008
The many delegations present were introduced to the legal dimension of crimes against humanity and were alerted to the importance of the Holocaust in the implementation of an international justice system and the institutionalisation of human rights protection following the Nuremberg trials. The establishment of a democratic Europe founded on the rule of law and mutual respect for diversity had been a first step in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Since 1945, the states of Europe had been striving, through preventive action and education, to preserve and defend what had been achieved in order to avoid a repetition of exclusion processes. An overview of Holocaust teaching in the various member states revealed a wide range of national initiatives not only as regards compulsory school curricula but also in terms of ad hoc actions, competitions, study trips to authentic memorial sites, “dedicated days”, exhibitions and meetings with survivors. The vast majority of countries now use teaching of the Holocaust as a paradigm for teaching about all crimes against humanity, with particular emphasis on the mechanisms involved. All countries, however, are aware of the need to establish this subject firmly within the curriculum before the last survivors die, to ensure the transition from memory to history.
Marek Edelman, leader of the Warsaw Marie Hanafin, Irish Minister for Education
Ghetto uprising (on left), and Science, speaks to the participants
and Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of the"March of the Living"