Learn from History campaign 2014

Brussels, January 7th, 2014 - The recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe has challenged European lawmakers as they are faced with new forms of anti-Semitism which are difficult to regulate under existing laws. The new Nazi-style salute, the so-called ”quenelle”, popularised by French comedian Dieudonne, is a good example.

Whereas in recent years anti-Semitism and racism have been a problem primarily among football supporters in the stands, they have now found their way down to the centre field, with some high-earning professionals making the quenelle salute in front of millions of TV viewers. Given their high visibility and position as role models for the younger generation, this spells further trouble for Europe.

Whilst the true meaning of the salute continues to be hotly debated, the person behind the gesture, Dieudonne, has been convicted seven times for inciting hatred against Jews and may well be on the way to his eighth trial. This time, it will be for implying that a Jewish journalist belongs in a gas chamber. French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, has stated that the quenelle salute is a gesture of hatred and anti-Semitism and that it breaches French anti-hate laws.

‘The best way to counter this new rise in anti-Semitism is through education’, says ECI Executive Director Tomas Sandell in Brussels.

Today ECI, in collaboration with Shadows of Shoah, is launching its annual educational campaign ‘Learn from History’ with newly- released videos of Holocaust survivors  sharing their own testimonies in short, but powerful, black and white videos. Using black and white imagery and original music, survivors' experiences are presented in a concise and compelling format. The work seeks to present powerful and evocative art, while carefully maintaining historical accuracy.

‘The genuine testimonies of surviving victims of the Holocaust become increasingly important at a time when  media personalities such as Dieudonne and a growing number of European parliamentarians have either openly denied the existence of the Holocaust, or simply trivialised its meaning’, says Sandell.

For many years, ECI has worked with local churches and faith communities in Europe to honour the victims of the Holocaust and raise awareness of new forms of anti-Semitism. This year, Holocaust Sunday will fall on January 26th, just one day before the UN- sponsored Holocaust Remembrance Day.

ECI will be organising its own ecumenical Holocaust Memorial Service in Brussels on Monday, 27th January, and will join the official EU Holocaust Remembrance Day event later in the evening. There will be other key ECI events organised in Brussels, Helsinki, Berlin and London. Local churches and faith communities everywhere are encouraged to make use of the video material for their own meetings on Sunday, 26th January.

Background information

International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th is an international memorial for the victims of the Holocaust - the genocide that resulted in the annihilation of 6 million Jews. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/7 on November 1st, 2005. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on January 24th, 2005, during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps at the end of the Holocaust.

ECI initiated and organised the first Holocaust Remembrance Day in the European Parliament in Brussels in 2005. It has today become an official EU event to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

Shadows of Shoah is the work of New Zealand photographer, composer and designer Perry Trotter.  The Shadows of Shoah exhibition was officially launched by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Rt .Hon John Key, at a Holocaust Remembrance Day event in January 2013.