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Lessons for Policymakers and Government Officials


4. Preventing and combating Holocaust distortion

At crucial junctures, every individual makes decisions and… every decision is individual.

Raul Hilberg

Learning Objectives

  • To increase awareness of concrete measures that can be taken to prevent and combat Holocaust distortion
  • To generate commitment to taking action to prevent and combat Holocaust distortion

Suggestions for Trainers

This activity engages the participants in a process of learning about areas in which action can be taken to prevent Holocaust distortion and discussing concrete measures that they can take in these areas. It is important to conduct the discussions in a way that will:

  • generate commitment to putting the ideas discussed into practice;
  • motivate the participants to continue to think about the aspects discussed and to find ways to take action together with their colleagues or other professionals.

The activity is divided into two parts. In the first part, the starting points for discussion are two videos in which the two interviewees express opinions that are quite different. In the context of this training, some participants might dismiss the opinion expressed in the second video, but the trainer should invite participants to reflect upon specific contexts. Different reactions can be valid for different contexts and there is no “one size fits all” approach that can function in every context and with every individual. The videos refer to reactive measures, while the activity that follows the video-based discussion invites the participants to think about preventative measures that can be taken in relation to Holocaust distortion. The difference between reacting and preventing is important and should be highlighted. The contribution of public institutions in preventing Holocaust distortion is crucial.

In the second part of the activity, the participants are invited to think of measures they can take, in relation to certain areas that are relevant for preventing Holocaust distortion. The starting points for group discussions are several areas of action identified by IHRA and UNESCO. The participants can choose the area which they want to explore or propose other areas, according to their interest.

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.


  • To stimulate discussion about the importance of taking action to prevent and combat Holocaust distortion
  • To engage participants in discussions for developing an action plan with concrete measures they can take in their professional area
  • To reflect upon the potential of partnerships and collaboration for combating Holocaust distortion

Number of participants: 5–30
Duration: 90 minutes

Description of the activity:

1. The trainer informs the participants that they are going to watch two short videos (one-minute each) in which two Holocaust survivors share their perspective on dealing with distortion and denial.

Video 1: Allan Brown – Do not ignore, but react

Video 2: Nina Kaleska – Do not give them a platform

2. Whenever playing videos of Holocaust survivors, it is important to give participants a short bio of the person, even if (or especially if) the video covers only a small part of the testimony. This serves as a way to remember and honor, as well as to avoid using testimonies without proper contextualization. Here are short bios of the two speakers, that can be shared with the participants:

Alan A. Brown (Braun) was born in 1928 in Miskolc, Hungary. At 16, he was sent to a coal mine in Kosice with his father. Together they were deported to a camp in Sopron, to Feldbach labour camps in Austria and finally to Neuhaus. His father died in April 1945, one day after the camp was liberated. All of his relatives were killed in concentration camps. He emigrated to the United States and, after a while, settled in Windsor, Canada.

Nina Kaleska was born on April 11, 1929 in Grodno, Poland (now Belarus). She was deported with her sister to Auschwitz in 1941. Her sister died three months after they arrived. Nina became sick in the camp several times and was able to overcome this with the help of a woman named Martha who worked there. She was forced to go on a death march and was eventually liberated by Allied Forces on May 5, 1945. She emigrated first to England and then to the United States with the help of the American Joint Distribution Committee.

3. The trainer engages the participants in a discussion based on the two videos by asking them to share:

  • Of the two perspectives, which one resonates with you more? Why?
  • Mr. Brown said that he found it very difficult to talk about what happened to him, but the discussion with the student made him willing to start doing it, even if it was hard for him. What do you think made him change his mind?
  • Why do you think that Ms. Kaleska considers we should not engage with people who deny the Holocaust, in order to not give them a platform? Do you think she would say the same thing about people who distort the Holocaust? Why? Why not?

The trainer explains that:

  • not giving people a platform to express antisemitism and Holocaust denial goes beyond refusing to engage with them. It also entails a responsibility to limit the spread of their message and to empower young people to counter it.
  • Countering Holocaust distortion requires both the work to prevent it from manifesting and to react when it does manifest. The two videos show how people reacted when they were faced with deniers. However, an important component of addressing Holocaust denial and distortion is prevention.

4. The trainer informs the participants that they will discuss concrete measures that can be taken to prevent Holocaust distortion, based on a series of recommendations made by IHRA and UNESCO.

These recommendations are grouped into four areas:

  • Identifying and monitoring Holocaust distortion
  • Supporting education to counter Holocaust distortion
  • Strengthening institutions that protect the memory of the Holocaust and ensure collaboration with the educational system
  • Recognizing and responding to Holocaust distortion online

5. The trainer lists these areas on a flipchart or shared screen and informs the participants that they will have to work in groups to identify concrete measures they can take in one of these four areas, or in another area they consider important. Before forming the groups, the participants are asked if they would like to add other areas of action, besides the four mentioned. At this point, the participants have to think in general terms about the areas which need intervention, not about concrete interventions (those will be addressed in the next unit). If new areas are identified, they are listed by the trainer.

6. The participants can choose which group to join, according to their interest. If more than seven people are interested in one of the themes, two subgroups can be made for that theme (groups that are too big prevent the participants from interacting and engaging in meaningful exchanges). Ideally, there should be at least four participants in each group. Each group should assign a representative (or more) who will present the main conclusions of the discussion.

7. After each group presents, the trainer engages the participants in a debriefing discussion, based on the following questions:

a. What are the main takeaways from the group discussion for you?
b. How did thinking about challenges and potential partners help you to formulate concrete actions?
c. What has inspired you from the presentations of the other groups?
d. Which of the measures proposed can be implemented in the short term and which ones in the medium term? Why?

8. The participants are informed that the measures discussed will be used as a starting point for detailing concrete actions they will take as a follow-up of this training.

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