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Lessons for Policymakers and Government Officials


1. What is Holocaust distortion?

Memory has its own language, its own texture, its own secret melody, its own archeology, and its own limitations; it too can be wounded, stolen, and shamed; but it is up to us to rescue it and save it from becoming cheap, banal, and sterile. To remember means to lend an ethical dimension to all endeavors and aspirations.

Elie Wiesel

Learning Objectives

  • To raise awareness of the dangers of Holocaust distortion and its impact on societies
  • To develop knowledge and critical understanding of various forms of manifestation of Holocaust distortion

Learning Activities

  1. Understanding the Meaning of Holocaust Distortion
  2. Key Manifestations of Holocaust Distortion
  3. Further Resources

Suggestions for Trainers

The educational activities in this unit are meant to both offer information and to stimulate reflection and curiosity for further learning.

In the first activity, the participants are invited to first watch a short video explaining what Holocaust distortion is and then a video that helps them understand its impact at personal level. The impact of Holocaust distortion upon different groups of people and upon society in general will be discussed in Unit 2. When discussing the first video, it is not necessary to address every detail, as many aspects presented in the video will be unpacked throughout the training. At this point, it is important to make sure that the participants understand the meaning of the terms Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion and know that this training will focus specifically on Holocaust distortion, though the two phenomena are sometimes intertwined. In the last part of the first activity, the participants are engaged with the Working Definition on Holocaust Denial and Distortion. It might occur that some people in the group do not agree that a certain manifestation is Holocaust distortion. Based on the time available and the resources in the group (the level of knowledge and critical understanding of the different participants), the specific arguments for/against categorizing that manifestation as Holocaust distortion can be addressed in this session or “parked” for the session dedicated to forms of manifestation of Holocaust distortion.

The second activity in this unit is based on the following publications:

Understanding Holocaust Distortion: Contexts, Influences and Examples, published by the IHRA in 2021.
History under attack: Holocaust denial and distortion on social media, published by the UN and UNESCO in 2022.

The participants are invited to think of concrete examples of the manifestation of Holocaust distortion, starting from specific categories identified by IHRA and UNESCO.1 Each group is assigned one or two categories for study, but the trainer can decide whether to give each group more or fewer categories to discuss, depending on the size of the group and the time available.

The categories presented in the handout and the examples related to them – which the participants will present – promote antisemitism and draw on antisemitic tropes and prejudices. It is important to acknowledge this and inform participants that this aspect will be further analyzed in Unit 3.
One of the categories specifically mentions the Roma, but several other categories also apply to Roma and other groups persecuted during the Holocaust. There are no texts issued by national or intergovernmental bodies that recognize, define, or sanction the denial and distortion of the Roma genocide.2 Nevertheless, the 2020 IHRA working definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination mentions practices of “distorting or denying persecution of Roma or the genocide of the Roma” and “glorifying the genocide of the Roma.”

It might happen that some participants agree with certain assertions and do not consider them manifestations of Holocaust distortion. When this happens, the trainer should first allow other participants to express their opinion, as comments coming from their peers will have more impact on the participants. Then the trainer can add more aspects if they were not mentioned by other participants. The reports mentioned above, as well as the resources in the Further Reading section, can help trainers prepare for the activities in this unit. Nevertheless, it is not always possible to change someone’s mind on the spot and the trainer needs to decide how much time to allocate when one or more participants disagree with certain aspects. The different units in the training should be seen as complementary in a process that is comprehensive and which gradually leads to changes in both knowledge and attitudes.

According to the principles of participatory learning, the participants should feel free to express their opinions in a safe environment. Violent/hateful comments should not be permitted, but careful consideration should be given as to not completely shoot down disagreements, as they are a source of learning and growth. When discussed empathically and deconstructed with facts, misinformed opinions can be changed. More information can be found in the Methodological Guide for Trainers.

The recommendations for individual study offered in this unit can be shared with the participants and should be consulted by the trainer when preparing the training.

1 A list of examples of manifestations of Holocaust distortion is offered in Annex 1. This Annex is meant as a support for the trainers, not as a handout to be distributed to the participants.

2 According to the study The Roma Holocaust/Roma Genocide in Southeastern Europe published by The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and the Roma Program at the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University in 2022

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