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.

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Parliamentary Assembly Session Strasbourg 23 January 2019
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Holocaust memorial ceremony

The President of Finland Sauli Niinistö has attended a ceremony in front of the Council of Europe’s headquarters in Strasbourg, to mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

In his address Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland underlined the importance of remembering the victims, in order to prevent a repetition of the atrocities that claimed the lives of six million people.

Eli Lev, Ambassador of Israel to the international institutions in France, paid tribute to the work of the Council of Europe, including its European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which fights anti-Semitism and xenophobia, and the separate programme to preserve and promote Holocaust remembrance.

Miranda Vuolasranta, President of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, referring to the rise of extreme right parties across Europe, warned that the ceremony was not just a commemoration of what she described as “the worst crime in history”, but also a wake-up call for what could await us if we do not act to prevent the resurgence of Fascism in Europe.

PACE President Liliane Maury Pasquier pledged that Holocaust remembrance would continue to guide the Council of Europe’s actions "Particularly as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, an organisation born out of the ruins of the Second World War and with a mission that is still relevant today: to defend peace, democracy and respect for fundamental rights, which are unfortunately still under threat in Europe".

Also taking part in the ceremony was David Cupina, President of Les « Oublié.s.e.s » de la Mémoire Association Civile Homosexuelle du Devoir de Mémoire.

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