It’s been a great pleasure and honor for me to serve as the Chairperson of the International Commission for the International Tracing Service, which oversees the Arolsen Archives over the last year.
Let me begin by thanking our invited speakers – U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and the Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Sara Bloomfield – for taking the time to share their perspectives and to greet us today.
As I said a year ago, I had huge shoes to fill in taking on the chairmanship from my good colleague Lord Pickles of the UK. I have greatly relied on him and the Troika for good advice and have been impressed and amazed at all the great work and initiatives that Floriane Azoulay and the dedicated team in Bad Arolsen have accomplished this year.
I wish to commend and thank the German Ministry of Culture and the Media for all their support and excellent cooperation with the Archives this year that has meant so much in operations, especially during the pandemic.
The U.S. chairmanship is a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Leading for the Museum is the talented Dr. Rebecca Boehling, who was previously the Arolsen Archives Director; her sage advice and deep experience was of enormous value to the U.S. delegation. I also want to thank Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming, of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, as well as Deborah Guido-O’Grady and Jim Neel who are senior advisors on my team at the U.S. Department of State. In Debi’s case, she took on the responsibility for handling all the issues of partnership with the Arolsen Archives for the U.S. chairmanship year, from initiating webinars and International Visitor Leadership Program exchanges on Holocaust history and confronting distortion — including one specifically for the Archives and the countries of the International Commission — to working with the U.S. Embassies in Berlin and Warsaw and the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt in securing State Department funding for a $100,000 grant for an additional #StolenMemory traveling exhibit.
For the United States’ chairmanship year, we had several broad objectives including:
- to work to further the current trend line for more public access.
- to help chart a course toward cutting-edge data management tools to make that access a reality.
- and, most importantly, to elevate the profile of the Archives’ vital work in remembrance and education. This was emphasized during my September 2020 visit to the Archives with Charge d’Affaires Robin Quinville from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin and U.S. Consul General Patricia Lacina from the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt. We stated this intent then and pledged to continue elevating the Archives’ work even after the U.S. chairmanship ends.
Since opening to the public in 2007, the Arolsen Archives has taken its rightful place among the major Holocaust remembrance institutions of the world. We take seriously that the records of the past touch on the concerns of the living.
That is why the United States with its Embassies in Berlin and Warsaw will join Germany in funding an additional #StolenMemory exhibit that will travel through Germany and, for the first time, into Poland. As Deputy Secretary Sherman noted, this unique traveling exhibit that features actual artifacts will tell “the stories of millions of Holocaust victims and forced laborers and do much to ensure that each generation learns the history of the Holocaust and of Nazi persecution—and never, never repeats it.”
We are extremely proud of this new #StolenMemory initiative and look forward to doing all we can to make it a success and building on the new standing exhibit that Arolsen Archives and the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland (IPN) are hosting this month in Warsaw.
Details of the U.S. – Germany project will be released following the meeting of Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Maas tomorrow [ed. note: June 24, 2021] in Berlin where they will be having some additional discussions on Holocaust issues. We already work extremely closely with Germany, including multilaterally through this Commission and also through the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. What’s increasingly clear, however, is that we need to do more.
The U.S. chairmanship of the IC this year also invested in increased international exchange of European and Americans on teaching Holocaust history during challenging times and confronting Holocaust distortion.
In addition to hosting two webinars for some 500 community educators from around the world that spotlighted the Archives, we featured the Arolsen Archives in an exchange program in April for 22 historians and archivists from 9 countries and the United States. Floriane Azoulay was a featured presenter at a key session in this month-long exchange and received rave reviews from the participants, especially concerning the #EveryNameCounts project.
In July, the Department of State and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will launch a specialized International Visitor Leadership exchange for professionals from the Arolsen Archives along with archivists and historians from the 11 countries of the International Commission of the ITS.
We believe that exchanges can play a powerful role in establishing best practices for protecting and expanding archives at home and abroad to give witness to the irrefutable, authentic evidence documenting the horrors of the Holocaust and of Nazi persecution.
As survivors of the Holocaust and other surviving victims of Nazi persecution pass, it is our individual and collective responsibility to make sure that their lessons – and their memories and stories – don’t die with them. Confronting the dark chapters of the past for us is the only way forward.
The U.S. delegation looks forward to continuing as a member of the Troika and in working with our colleagues Ambassador François Bontemps and the Belgian delegation as Belgium now takes on the chairmanship of the International Commission. Mr. Ambassador, we stand united and will remain an active member of the Troika and willing to help in any way we can in furthering the work of the International Commission and Arolsen Archives.
And, on a personal note, I will be moving on from my role as the Special Envoy this summer but look forward to helping my successor, Ellen Germain, who is now our Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and has served as Consul General in Krakow, Poland and in other countries that have great relevance to these issues. She is already looking forward to working with the Arolsen Archives and the International Commission.
It’s been a privilege to work with all of you in fulfilling the vision for the Archives that was embedded into the walls of the main building as early as 1952:
“May this archive, which serves as restitution for the victims and their families, be a warning to all future generations to never again allow such a horror to afflict humanity.”
I will now turn over the chairmanship of the International Commission to Ambassador Bontemps. After his remarks, we will view the film “Johannes” from the Stolen Memory exhibit as well as the video of the impressive light show at the French Embassy in Berlin in celebration of the “#EveryNameCounts” project.”