Holocaust » Overview

Overview

Since 2010, Salzburg Global Seminar has implemented the Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Through a series of global and regional gatherings, the Program has engaged participants from more than 40 countries on six continents, the majority of which are non-Western countries, and many of which have a recent experience of mass atrocities. The Program has established a network of individuals and NGOs across these countries, and strives to deepen and extend their collaborative work, allowing practitioners to identify cross-regional strategies to empower institutions and individuals with tools for ethical education and peaceful conflict resolution.

Faced with a rise in violent extremism, policymakers are under pressure to invest in prevention and to show that it works. Structured efforts to reduce extremist mindsets and behaviors have existed for some time, but evidence of effectiveness is often not widely known or utilized. Many interventions require considerable time to affect change, making rigorous measurement of their success over the long-term resource-intensive with sustained political will around an often-unpopular topic. What works? How do we know? And will it work in different geographic, cultural, and political contexts? 

Salzburg Global Seminar’s Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention (HEGP) Program works across cultures and contexts, including where perceptions and definitions of “extremism” differ widely. The emphasis on grassroots activity within existing institutional budgets anchors projects in their local communities and improves chances for longer-term sustainability. Activities depend on the partners and are demand-driven: the Program provides no financial support to activity implementation, but rather the Program facilitates networks and exchange of experiences across borders to help in-country partners achieve their own institutional mandates, and to help external partners (government, academic, and other interested parties) to have access to practical feedback from on the ground within affected countries and communities.

For detailed information on countries that are not currently part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), please see: Holocaust Education.

For detailed reports from Salzburg Global Seminar sessions and compiled by Fellows, please see: Salzburg Global Publications

For further Holocaust Education resources from our partner, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, please see: Additional USHMM Resources

 


Updates from the Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program

Mark Tokola - Three Dilemmas of Dealing with North Korea
Mark Tokola - Three Dilemmas of Dealing with North Korea
Mark Tokola 
This article was first published on the Korea Economic Institute's blog Short conversations about North Korea generally end with similar conclusions: it is too soon to tell whether Kim Jong-un has successfully entrenched himself; the North Korean economy whether by design or necessity has introduced some market elements; China is growing impatient with North Korea’s unpredictability and belligerency; and Kim Jung-un’s regime is even more brutal and repressive than his father’s. The level of purges and numbers of executions is unprecedented, even for North Korea. The regime’s fixation with building amusement parks while much of its population goes malnourished is the epitome of how far a dictator can place whims above necessities. That much, at least, attracts a consensus of opinion. It takes a longer conversation to reveal the fault-lines and seams in opinion among experts regarding what should be done in regard to North Korea. There is a weight of opinion, but without unanimity, that urgency is beginning to ratchet up. The DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs are closer to producing weapons which can threaten other countries. In truth, Seoul has been within the range of North Korean artillery for decades, but longer-range North Korean weaponry carrying nuclear warheads would alter broader, strategic equations regardless whether they could reach the United States. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on human rights violations in North Korea is making it increasingly difficult for the international community to avert its eyes from the regime’s widespread and systematic abuses of its own people, which are likely to be counted as crimes against humanity. The prospect of unification of the Korean peninsula is being discussed more seriously than it has been for years. The most surprising outcome of the change that seems to be in the air would be if the situation on the Korean peninsula remained as it is for another generation. Hence, the need to talk about North Korea with increasing seriousness. Two such longer conversations about North Korea were held first, at the June 2-6 Salzburg Global Seminar on “International Responses to Crimes Against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea,” and second, at the Annual Conference of the International Council on Korean Studies (ICKS) held at Georgetown University from June 25-26 on “Unification of the Korean Peninsula: Issues and Opportunities.” The Salzburg Seminar was held under the Chatham House rule and therefore remarks by the participants are not to be publicly attributed to them without their permission, but what they discussed can be shared. Confidentiality was necessary in order to have a free-flowing and frank conversation among the government and private sector experts who attended the seminar. The Seminar ended with an agreed public statement outlining specific steps that should be taken by governments, private organizations, and concerned individuals to improve the human rights situation in North Korea. The ICKS conference by contrast was a public meeting and will be made available on the KEI website. During long conversations among experts on North Korea, three questions often surface, the answers to which have practical consequences: Is it better to engage North Korea or to isolate it? Is there a choice to be made regarding whether to prioritize North Korea’s strategic threat or its human rights record? And, which is the higher goal, peace or justice? The answer to each of the questions may be “It depends,” “That is a false choice,” or “This isn’t black and white, the best policy lies along a spectrum.” In any case, the questions are not ones that can be ignored. Engagement or Isolation? If the goal is to change North Korea’s behavior, is that more likely to come about through interacting with the North Korean government, or through refusing to have anything to do with it until its behavior changes? The answers depends upon a series of further, refining questions: are we talking about government-to-government, diplomatic engagement? humanitarian assistance and other NGO engagement? or people-to-people engagement (and is that even possible with a country as totalitarian as North Korea)? The question of diplomatic engagement already seems to have an answer. Both the South Korean and U.S. governments have said that they are willing to engage in talks with North Korea. President Park says she is prepared to hold talks without preconditions, but rejects North Korea’s requirement that U.S.-ROK military exercises be cancelled before it is willing to meet. North Korea has called for “unconditional” talks with the U.S. but then conditioned the unconditional talks by saying that they would have to be held without reference to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. In essence, the path is open for diplomatic engagement should North Korea choose to take it. Demanding that South Korea end its military exercise while continuing to conduct its own, and insisting that the U.S. abandon its primary objective, getting North Korea to abide by the international obligations it undertook regarding its nuclear program, seem to show a lack of enthusiasm for diplomacy on North Korea’s part. An alternative might be to make unilateral gestures towards North Korea in hope that North Korea might respond positively. It seems likely, however, that the Kim Jung-un government is not firmly enough on its feet to be able to respond to concessions, whether a reduction in sanctions or a pause in U.S.-ROK military exercises. Absent a signal from Pyongyang that it was truly interested in a negotiation, a unilateral concession from Seoul or Washington would only reduce the number of bargaining chips available for future talks, making them more difficult. For organizations that provide or might provide assistance to North Koreans, there are serious practical and ethical questions regarding their unavoidable interaction with the North Korean government. On one hand, the humanitarian need for nutritional supplements and medicine is great. The cost of saving a life in North Korea is less than in other struggling countries because the base line is so low. On the other, does providing assistance merely serve to extend the life of an abhorrent regime? Do outside resources allow it to channel its resources to prison camps and nuclear weapons programs? One NGO has given up and pulled out of North Korea. The problem was not that its resources were being diverted to the government, but that the government was controlling the population that the NGO in question was serving. The government in effect chose the people whom the NGO would help. The people being served were needy, but not the neediest or most vulnerable population in North Korea. Because the baseline principle of the organization was that it would serve those most in need of assistance, it deemed that it could not continue. Other organizations have decided otherwise, that providing assistance to anyone in need was worth doing if possible. There are other considerations in deciding whether to engage with humanitarian assistance or not. One is the theory of “feeding the executioner.” The idea is that if the international community did not provide assistance to the needy in North Korea, neither would the North Korean government. Belief that Pyongyang would fill the gap left by decisions of NGOs not to operate in North Korea is naïve. In fact, the DPRK government would be more likely to extract what it could from its most vulnerable populations to support its programs rather than to assist them. If everyone has enough food, the government will not have to take any from the people to give to the ruling class and army. If everyone has too little, the government will take what it can from the population. Providing humanitarian assistance, therefore, prevents the DPRK from further preying on its own people. Finally there is the notion of investing in the future through humanitarian assistance. Providing help to the people of North Korea now will make unification of the peninsula easier when it occurs. A healthier, better-educated North Korean population will be easier to accommodate into a unified Korea than one that is stunted and unable to work. In the end, everyone has to decide for themselves whether their engagement with North Korea is a good idea and what compromises they are prepared to make to achieve their goals. The term “principled engagement” is often used. Even people-to-people engagement is a tougher calculation than we would all wish. It would be nice to think that all contacts that can be arranged with North Koreans — whether government officials, sports figures, or artists – are bound at least to give them a better impression of us, and at most to raise questions in their minds about the state of their own country and whether it might be different. That may even be true. However, there is another side to the argument. The costs of people-to-people engagements may be that they give the North Korean government propaganda points to argue to their own people that the Kim Jong-un regime is indeed internationally accepted and admired. Second, the DPRK has complete control over who gets to participate in people-to-people programs. If they are being used to reward the party faithful, does that make them little more than treats which can be dispensed to maintain loyalty to the regime? There is no easy answer.

The Strategic Threat versus Human Rights

So long at the DPRK argues that it will never abandon its nuclear weapons program and that its population enjoys the world’s highest level of human rights, there is no reason not to press the DPRK on both issues. It should abide by its commitments to not pursue nuclear weaponry and should accept the UN COI recommendations on how to put an end to its abuses of the rights of its citizens. It could, and should, do both. However, it is possible to imagine a different situation. What if the DPRK expressed a willingness to engage in negotiations on its nuclear program, but only if the international community would stop trying to undermine the government by charging it with human rights violations? Why would members of a government who were being threatened with being sent to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity agree to negotiate with their prosecutors? Being afraid to travel for fear of being arrested would make protracted negotiations impossible. This is a dilemma that posits a situation different from the one we are in with North Korea, but among the DPRK’s few international defenders, there are voices who argue that the choice is already upon us. We should accept right now the DPRK as a sovereign, “normal,” state rather than treating it as an outlaw. Sanctions should be ended and serious negotiations should begin to reduce regional tensions. After all, they argue, the greatest violation of human rights would be general warfare on the Korean peninsula rather than the selective if unfortunate actions by the DPRK against disruptive individuals in its quest to maintain domestic order. One argument that may tip the balance towards those who argue that accountability for crimes against humanity cannot be negotiated away is the weight of international opinion. The Six Party Talks have six parties because they (South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., Russia, and China) have the dominant stake in the strategic stability of the peninsula. The circle of countries who have an interest in human rights is far broader. It should be possible to enlist democracies such as India, South Africa, Brazil, and others in an international effort to pressure North Korea to improve its human rights situation. Not only North Korea, but its chief patron, China, have shown sensitivity to wider international opinion beyond what the U.S. and its close allies have to say. The human rights situation in North Korea is, or should be, a global concern. That is reason enough to keep it on the agenda with North Korea.

Peace or Justice?

The call usually goes up for peace and justice, but what if they are not compatible in regard to North Korea? This dilemma is similar to that of strategic threat versus human rights, but different. It most likely would surface in regard to unification. Under any unification scenario (usually boiled down to peaceful and negotiated, or following a collapse of the DPRK) it will be necessary to deal with the crimes against humanity that have been committed by North Korean authorities. Will the priority be to quickly reach a peaceful situation by giving amnesty to those who might otherwise resist unification, or to give justice its chance to do its slower work to determine crime and punishment? In the longer term, will the many North Korean mid and low-level authorities be given the right to resume positions of authority in a unified Korea, or will they be forever excluded? Peace may argue one answer, justice another. The UN’s COI report is legally correct in its carefully worded finding of “reasonable grounds to establish that crimes against humanity have been committed.” The rule of law requires that the facts and judgment be weighed through a trial process, not though a presumption of guilt. The “reasonable grounds” are strong enough that the COI recommends a Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court, but the report is light on naming names or identifying institutions of those who should be tried. It is for this reason that a UNHCHR Field Office began operating in Seoul this June. Its purpose is to collect evidence for use in future prosecutions, whether international, Korea, or hybrid. There is much to be decided in regards to eventually holding North Korean authorities accountable for crimes committed by the regime. Which authorities, at what level, and with what degree of culpability should be tried and for what crimes? This is an issue that will need to be decided primarily by the unified Korea, but the international community also has a stake in the prosecution of crimes against humanity. The Nuremburg trials, and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) are examples, if imperfect models, of how justice might be done. Other countries that have emerged from conflict have opted for ‘peace and reconciliation commissions,’ to make sense of what they have been through. Maybe in the case of Korea both will be needed: criminal trials to establish guilt among those most responsible for the human rights abuses, and peace and reconciliation organizations to help all Koreans come to terms with living in a shared Korea. One future benefit of the justice system is that it will establish a common, evidence-based history of Korea from 1954 to the date of unification. In the case of Yugoslavia, the ICTY has created an invaluable collection of first-person, sworn testimony offered by all sides that will help settle future disagreements about the true story of their tragic recent history. One of the problems in dealing with the ongoing tensions in Northern Ireland is that there is no common historic database of fact shared by the unionists and the nationalists, leaving each with its own version of history. The court records of the Korean human rights trials, when they come, will help people come to terms with their past better than any government-organized, official history. Well-informed, well-intentioned people can disagree over how to deal with North Korea. Discussing the common dilemmas can help them make their individual decisions. The stakes are high. Today’s decisions on engagement immediately affect the lives of people living in North Korea. Coming to terms in advance with the issues that will follow unification will increase the odds that the process of unification will be less costly and painful than might otherwise be the case. Unification of the peninsula will improve the lives of millions. The process of getting there will require the best that South Korea and her allies can do.
Mark Tokola is the Vice President of the Korea Economic Institute of America and was a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar session International Responses to Crimes Against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea, which is part of Salzburg Global Seminar’s multi-year program on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention. The views expressed here are his own.
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Michael Kirby - "I hope a time will come when human rights are truly respected in North Korea"
Michael Kirby - "I hope a time will come when human rights are truly respected in North Korea"
Rachitaa Gupta 
Following the release of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) report on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Salzburg Global held a symposium, chaired by Michael Kirby, on International Responses to Crimes Against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea. Michael Kirby was appointed the chair of the United Nations Human Rights Council's COI on Human Rights in DPRK in 2013, and in 2014 along with other members, Marzuki Darusman, and Sonja Biserko, he published a report with the findings and recommendations of the COI, after having interviewed over 80 witnesses. Kirby spoke to Salzburg Global on the impact of the report, international response to it, and the role the international community can now play in dealing with the human rights violations in the DPRK. "The COI report has made a difference, because if you look at the relations of DPRK with the United Nations and the international community over the past 30-40 years, it’s basically been one of non-engagement. Since the COI report has been delivered, not only has North Korea begun to engage, in particular with the process of the universal periodical review, which is conducted by the Human Rights Council (HRC), but it has also engaged in a so-called charm offensive," said Kirby. According to Kirby, before being appointed as the chair of the COI, he had very limited information about the human rights violation in the DPRK and after having spoken to the witnesses, he was glad for the existence of the UN and its commitment to hold people responsible for crimes against humanity accountable. "It came to me as a terrible shock and surprise to uncover the horrible crimes against humanity which were recorded in the testimonies of the witnesses who gave evidence before the COI. It was a very unpleasant, upsetting, distressing time in my life. However, at least I know that the UN exists and hopefully will render accountable those who are proven to be responsible for crimes against humanity. That’s the big difference between the world before 1945 when the charter of the UN was adopted and after 1945 in which we now live and work." Kirby believes that the good thing about COI report was that it not only forced the DPRK in to action but has also geared the international community in to responding to the situation in North Korea. "We have now reached a point in the United Nations system, where almost everything we asked for has been achieved. What we have got to do now is translate these steps in to action of the international community relating to North Korea. And that is not going to be done by whispered conversations in great halls. It is going to be done by civil societies, diplomats, international organizations and policy makers coming together to engage North Korea." He also expressed his appreciation for the Salzburg Global symposium and its process to encourage people from different fields to interact and work cohesively to develop an action plan that can inspire their work in the advancement of the protection of human rights in the DPRK and the quest for accountability. "It brought together people from different backgrounds: some were civil society people, others were experienced diplomats, and some had experience in international law. It was an opportunity for different points to be expressed and for strategies to be proposed that could be considered by the institutions and organizations which the participants came from. It can also bring attention of the world community to the report and insist on follow up." Michael Kirby, a long time Fellow at Salzburg Global, hoped that the work on the human rights issue in the DPRK will continue even after the end of the symposium and that the next time he comes to Salzburg Global for another session on the North Korea, he would hear good news on the issue. "There have not been any developments in the past 70 years on the human rights in North Korea, but I hope a time will come, when there will be a Salzburg Global Seminar [program] that reports on human rights truly being respected in North Korea." Read the full Salzburg Statement on International Responses to Crimes Against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea.
The symposium on International Responses to Crimes against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea continues Salzburg Global Seminar's commitment to Justice issues, including international law, human rights and genocide prevention.
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Determined Action on North Korean Human Rights Urged by High-level Global Gathering
Determined Action on North Korean Human Rights Urged by High-level Global Gathering
Salzburg Global Seminar 
From June 2 to 6, 2015, the three members of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) - Michael Kirby, Marzuki Darusman, and Sonja Biserko - came together at Salzburg Global Seminar's symposium on International Responses to Crimes Against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea to consider responses to the COI report released in 2014.  At the symposium, the commissioners met with 40 diplomats, legal experts, policy makers and human rights advocates from six continents to debate a broad range of actions, including renewing the call to the UN Security Council to consider referring North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to the International Criminal Court for suspected crimes against humanity. The symposium was held under the Chatham House Rule, protecting the identities of participants and not attributing particular views or comments to the individuals taking part. Participants concluded the meeting by agreeing on A CALL TO ACTION - Salzburg Statement on the Human Rights Situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Among the priorities cited were:
  • Securing the DPRK's compliance with its international obligations, including the Responsibility to Protect accepted by all UN Member States in 2005 and the provision of access to UN special mandate holders and other UN personnel;
  • Facilitating international transit of North Koreans seeking to leave the DPRK and avoiding their repatriation to the DPRK;
  • Disseminating the COI Report globally by expanding access in various languages, new formats, and media, including reader-friendly translations;
  • Increasing dissemination of information within the DPRK, including by accessible radio broadcasts;
  • Exploring the availability and use of court systems in various jurisdictions around the world, including those affording universal jurisdiction, with a view to securing the accountability of any persons or institutions in the DPRK found liable under international law.
The full Salzburg Statement and priority actions are available here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/DPRK. About this symposium:  The symposium on International Responses to Crimes against Humanity: The Challenge of North Korea continues Salzburg Global Seminar's commitment to Justice issues, including international law, human rights and genocide prevention. Convened on an invitation-only basis, its aim was to discuss and recommend practical ways in which outside actors - state and non-state as well as local, regional, and global - could realistically aim to help improve the situation of the North Korean population. About Salzburg Global Seminar:  Salzburg Global Seminar is a fully independent non-profit organization, founded after the Second World War in 1947 during a period of extraordinary transition - physical, economic, social, and cultural. At this disrupted and unstable moment in history, its establishment represented an inspirational undertaking - an institution created by young people to develop globally aware leaders and one of the first international organizations designed to connect current leaders to the next generation of young people working to drive social and economic regeneration. For nearly 70 years, Salzburg Global's strategic convening has addressed the principles, values, and leadership responsibilities critical for peace and human dignity to flourish. The organization has a unique track record of creating conditions of trust to bridge cultural, ideological, and geographic divides. It has launched cross-cultural educational programs that drive institutional change, created peace-building initiatives and networks, and worked to support regions, institutions, and sectors in transition. Salzburg Global's programs have connected more than 25,000 participants from 160 countries, creating lasting bonds sustained by the Salzburg Global Network.
Media Contact: Thomas Biebl, Director of Marketing and Communications, Salzburg Global Seminar, tbiebl@SalzburgGlobal.org
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Salzburg Global Initiative Recommendations Presented to International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
Salzburg Global Initiative Recommendations Presented to International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance
Salzburg Global Seminar 
Recommendations of the Salzburg Global Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention have been well received by participants at the latest meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The meeting, held in December in Manchester, UK, was attended by Klaus Mueller, chair of the Salzburg Global Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention, a joint initiative of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and Salzburg Global, whereat he presented the recommendations made by Salzburg Global Fellows during the symposium Holocaust and Genocide Education: Sharing Experience Across Borders held in June in Salzburg. That symposium brought together predominantly non-Western participants from 29 countries outside the framework of the current IHRA member states. During the symposium, participants reviewed the 2010 IHRA guidelines on Holocaust and other genocides, and developed recommendations from a more global perspective, as outlined in the 2014 session report. Mueller’s presentation on these recommendations to such a large transnational forum provided a unique opportunity to engage colleagues from around the world.  IHRA, an intergovernmental network of currently 31 nations from Europe, North America, Israel and Argentina, supports the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research both nationally and internationally, and has been a main supporter of the Salzburg Global Initiative. As part of the US delegation to IHRA, Mueller joined, among other meetings, the first gathering of a new IHRA Committee on Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.  The committee – which addresses the growing engagement of Holocaust institutions and memorials in education and remembrance activities on other genocides – invited Mueller to present the outcomes of the June 2014 Salzburg symposium.  The IHRA committee delegates took the Salzburg recommendations very seriously and used them as a point of departure to review and further develop the IHRA guidelines on Holocaust and other genocides, thus integrating the recommendations of the joint USHMM-Salzburg Global Initiative as an outside expert perspective. Among other themes, the Committee members discussed as a follow-up to the recommendations from our 2014 Salzburg participants:
  • Making the guidelines more practical for educators and teachers through lesson plans;
  • Creating a feedback mechanism to understand guidelines as a working document;
  • Working on a draft paper on the use of language within the IHRA guidelines guided by the Salzburg recommendations;
  • Reflecting on the global use of the IHRA guidelines.
The current IHRA chair Sir Andrew Burns from the United Kingdom (who attended the 2014 Salzburg session) and Michael Haider from the Austrian Foreign Office (which has been a key funder from the beginning of the Initiative since 2010) were informed about the session outcomes in separate dialogues hosted by Mueller. 
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Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders
Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders
Salzburg Global Seminar 
The report from the June 2014 Salzburg Global Seminar session Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention: Sharing Experiences Across Borders is now available online.  The program, held as part of the joint Salzburg Global-United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Salzburg Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention, brought together 47 educators, museum directors, civil society leaders, policy influencers, public officials and other working in Holocaust and genocide education from 29 countries across the world. You can read more about the session in the report below:
Download the report as PDF
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Kofi A. Annan,  Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1997-2006

Honorary President, Salzburg Initiative on Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention

“I am honoured to have been associated with this project since its inception in 2009. Working together, the Seminar and the Museum have brought together scholars, educators and policy makers from different academic disciplines, and from many different parts of the world, to consider how far, and in what ways, education about the Holocaust and other genocides can actually contribute to the prevention of further such tragedies in the future.”

- Kofi Annan