This was announced on July 9 in the UNESCO headquarters in Paris by the Director of the International Programs of the Wiesenthal Center, Shimon Samuels, introducing a joint project of the Wiesenthal Center, "Verbe et Lumière" Charity Fund and the Russian Holocaust Center. The winners of the International Competition on Holocaust presented their results in Paris for the eighth consecutive year. This year’s winners came from Arkhangelsk, Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Tambov and Yaroslavl.
The presentation of the students from Russia was attended by the ambassadors to UNESCO from the United States, Israel and by the Deputy Heads of Belgian, German and Russian mission. In her welcoming remarks, the UNESCO Director General Mrs. Irina Bokova expressed her appreciation of this international project and the efforts of the Russian Holocaust Center to perpetuate the memory of Holocaust victims and to broaden the work with young people.
The representative of the Russian Embassy, Tatiana Balykina underlined the importance of preserving the memory of the war and the Holocaust for Russia. Soo-Hyang Choi, UNESCO Head of the Department for Early Childhood and Inclusive Education underlined that the subject of Holocaust constitutes one of the priorities in the educational programs of the organization.
The Honorary President of the French Committee for Yad Vashem, Paul Schaffer showed his cap given to him by a Soviet soldier during the liberation of Auschwitz to the audience. He appealed to young people and educators to search for new forms of communication about the Holocaust. His vivid memories can be regarded as a bridge between historical facts and the formation of their historical memory in the modern world.
The second part of the ceremony was dedicated to the guests from Russia. Ilya Altman, Co-Chairman of the Holocaust Center explained the aims of the contest and introduced the winners. The students’ contributions dealt with nearly unknown or current problems of the history of the Holocaust. The international character of the conference reflected research on different states. Kristina Murashova (Yaroslavl) reported about the Japanese Counsel Sugihara who rescued many Jews; Irina Golovashina (Tambov) analyzed the experience of The House of the Wannsee Conference in Germany, and Maria Gileva (Archangelsk) analyzed the US policy during the Holocaust. The reports of the graduates of the Russian State University for Humanities, Yekaterina Lazareva and of the Southern Federal University, Anna Arsenova focused on the problems of oral history and the preservation of Holocaust memory at the regional level.
The presentations aroused great interest in the audience, in particular among Holocaust eyewitnesses, such as Ms. Laura Rusk and also among social actors. Showing a genuine interest in the students’ research results, the speakers stressed the need for students from around the world to study the Holocaust history.The Russian participants got the opportunity to discuss some additional aspects not reflected in their reports in a more informal atmosphere. It is important and pleasant to note that the efforts of the young researchers were recognized on such a high level.
For each student this meant a significant step forward into the future, both in terms of professional accomplishments and experience gained in being involved in the activities on the international level.
On July 10, despite the fact that the conference was over and the beauty of Paris was not fully explored, Russian delegates showed strong devotion and desire to continue their Holocaust studies.On this day, it was the time to visit to the Holocaust Memorial. During a guided tour, Philip Boukhara, member of the Mémorial educational staff described main venues of the museum activities and showed some of the most interesting exhibits.
During the first two days, the group had the opportunity to get to know Paris. These days were filled with fresh and intensive impressions stemming from visiting the main attractions of the French capital: Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre ... When exploring the city the group lost its way and found it again by contacting Parisians who did not always understand English, but had some command of Russian; walking under the pouring rain through the nocturnal city, trying to keep up with the time. The time was filled with touching and emotional impressions – but the main purpose of our trip was never lost out of the sight: presenting the contributions at the conference at the UNESCO headquarters.Maria Gileva and Irina Golovashina