Memorial stone unveiled on 27th January 2005 on the forecourt of the Council of Europe

The Holocaust is a European heritage which has common roots in the European nations, and there is a European responsibility that should be accepted.

On the morning of 27 January 1945 the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps still held some 7,000 prisoners. Over a million people deported to Auschwitz perished there. It is estimated that six million Jews were exterminated in the death camps.

The Council of Europe was the moving spirit behind the introduction of a Day of Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity. Education ministers from member states took the decision in October 2002. While Germany and France have chosen 27 January, the day when Auschwitz was liberated, Holocaust Day varies in other countries according to the respective historical experience.

The Council of Europe also helps teachers with their Holocaust Remembrance Day preparations by making available teaching material for raising pupil awareness of those dark times and exploring the topics of genocide and crimes against humanity so as to promote prevention, understanding, tolerance, and friendship between nations, races and religions.


The activities of the Council of Europe with regard to the teaching of the Remembrance of the Holocaust are defined in Recommendation Rec(2001)15, on “History teaching in twenty-first century Europe”, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 31 October 2001 at the 771st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies.

Concept and objectives:

On the basis of the “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust and for the Prevention of Crimes against Humanity”, the aim is to develop and firmly establish the teaching of this subject in Europe.

The preventive dimension of the “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust” is evident not only from its title but also from the first sentence of the relevant section of the Recommendation: “everything possible should be done in the educational sphere to prevent recurrence or denial of the devastating events that have marked this century, namely the Holocaust, genocides and other crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and the massive violations of human rights and of the fundamental values to which the Council of Europe is particularly committed”.

The specifics:

The Holocaust is regarded as a paradigm for every kind of human rights violation and crime against humanity; all the victims (Jews, Roma, Resistance members, politicians, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, disabled persons) of the Nazi regime are taken into consideration.

  • The teaching rather than the commemorative dimension (educational action);
  • The preventive dimension (the Council of Europe was the first international organisation to link remembrance teaching with preventing crimes against humanity);
  • The regional and national dimension (each member State chooses a date that corresponds with its national history; the teachers are then encouraged to develop their teaching on the basis of local history so that pupils are aware that it is their own cultural heritage which is being referred to);
  • The interdisciplinary dimension, which is intrinsic to the approach to the prevention of crimes against humanity (history but also literature, psychology, civic education, art, language, biology, physics and sport);
  • The taking into account of all victims of crimes against humanity through study of the paradigm of the Holocaust.