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Lessons for Civil Society Organizations


3. Human rights and Holocaust distortion

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. … Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Learning Objectives

  • To develop a critical understanding of the link between Holocaust distortion and human rights violations
  • To develop empathy with different groups of people impacted by Holocaust distortion
  • To enhance commitment to promoting respect for human rights

Learning Activities

  1. Holocaust Distortion and Human Rights
  2. Holocaust Distortion and the Broader Context of Disinformation and Intolerance
  3. Further Resources

Suggestions for Trainers

The activities proposed in this unit aim to engage participants in deeper reflections about the ways in which Holocaust distortion conflicts with human rights and intertwines with other phenomena such as hate speech, fake news and anti-democratic propaganda, having thus a significant and long-term impact on our societies.

The first activity engages the participants in a process of reflection upon the ways in which Holocaust distortion conflicts with the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Afterwards, the participants are engaged in a critical thinking process that asks them to express their agreement/disagreement with a few statements. When the participants offer their arguments, a symbolic microphone (a pen, for example) can be used, in order to avoid everyone speaking at the same time.

As this activity focuses on constructive disagreements and stimulating reflections, the trainers should refrain from taking positions or commenting on the statements during this part. During the debriefing, the trainers can clarify statements and offer further information, while also addressing some of the opinions expressed, in order to bring them up for further discussion. However, this does not mean that all opinions should be tolerated. Any manifestation of hate speech or opinion that goes against human rights values should be addressed and deconstructed. For this reason, it is important to create a safe learning space from the beginning of the training, a space in which the participants feel free to express themselves but are also open to being challenged.

There are countless resources that the trainers can consult for further learning about human rights, about human rights education and about antisemitism, in order to be better prepared to conduct these activities.

For example:

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – What are Human Rights? Human Rights – Handbook for Parliamentarians No 26

Council of Europe – Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People

UNESCO – The Legitimate Limits to Freedom of Expression: the Three-Part Test, available in different languages

In the second activity, the focus is on the connection between Holocaust distortion and other manifestations of intolerance, disregard for truth and lack of respect for human dignity such as fake news, hate speech, anti-democratic propaganda or populism. As the participants in this training might come from different areas of civil society, it is possible that they already have expertise on addressing some forms/mechanism of disinformation and hate speech. In this activity they will explore their connection with Holocaust distortion and will start thinking about ways of countering it.

It is advised to allow participants to choose the group they want to join, according to the topics of their interest, as well as to allow them to propose new topics for discussion, which might be relevant for them. This will ensure that the training is as practical as possible and contributes to generating ideas that can be put into practice by the participants after the training.

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