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March 18, 2022 4:57 pm

European Rights Watchdog Passes Holocaust Education Measure After Russian Exit

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal addresses the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe via videolink, in an extraordinary session to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Strasbourg, France March 14, 2022. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The Council of Europe, a human rights organization formed after World War II, passed a long-awaited measure advancing education about the Holocaust on Thursday, days after Russia’s exit from the body over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The Council’s recommendation calls on its 46 member states to “promote teaching and learning about the history of the Holocaust and to pass on remembrance of the Holocaust and crimes committed by the Nazis, their accomplices and collaborators, as an integral part of education and public policies,” the organizations Committee of Ministers said. “The text emphasizes the exceptional nature of the destruction of the European Jewish community, while also recognizing the other victims of Nazism and other mass crimes of the 20th century.”

Because there are “fewer and fewer” survivors of the Holocaust to give eyewitness accounts of the tragedy, the ministers said, an interdisciplinary approach to teaching it should include engaging students with tours to important historical sites, historical documents, media, art, and literature.

“Learning and teaching about the Holocaust is vital to prevent future crimes against humanity,” Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić of Croatia said. “At a time when antisemitism is on the rise, we must spare no effort to remember the victims and to ensure that remembrance will continue in the future. This is an essential part of our collective responsibility to protect Jews and Jewish life in Europe.”

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The Council of Europe is international human rights organization founded in 1949 and headquartered in the French city of Strasbourg. Moscow quit the body on Tuesday, hours before the Council was expected to vote to expel Russia over its “aggression” in Ukraine.

That decision, according to the German outlet Jüdische Allgemeine, helped clear the way for the Holocaust remembrance measure, which had been blocked by Russia over its insistence that “certain victim groups” be included.

The Russian Federation, which joined the Council of Europe in 1996, is now the first European country to lose representation since 1969, when Greece withdrew to avoid expulsion after coming under the authority of a military dictatorship.

COE assembly member and former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Tuesday that the vote to expel Moscow was “not against the people of Russia.”

“It’s against the autocratic, kleptocratic, oppressive regime of Putin,” he said, in comments reported by Reuters. “My country, Greece, was kicked out of the Council of Europe in the 1970s … this decision strengthened our struggle for democracy and freedom.”

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