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Implement GA Resolution on Holocaust Denial

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres - remembering victims pf Holocaust (Courtesy photo for education only)

Historic archives victims of Holocaust (Public domain photo for education only)

Oscar wining producer Branko Lustig (1932-2019) Holocaust survivor from Croatia

Bisera Turkovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo Raport.ba for edu. only)

David Pettigrew speaking about Rebrenica I Sarajevo (Bosnian media photo for education only)

By Erol Avdović – WebPublicaPress (United Nations) - Just on the eve of the 77th anniversary of the

Historic archives victims of Holocaust (Public domain photo for education only)

Historic archives victims of Holocaust (Public domain photo for education only)

liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945 as the world commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A / 76 / L30 and formally condemning Holocaust denial and calling on Member States to resist denial through education.

But some think that while this resolution is important in itself, it will not be enough if the Holocaust is not talked about more often, so we may finally learn the lessons that we have not. After all, the famous German philosopher Hegel (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770 – 1831) warned us long ago that due to irresponsible behavior towards history – history mostly teaches us nothing and we miss the main lessons; we unfortunately have poor memory of historical lessons.

That is why, after all, half a century after the Holocaust in the center of Europe, Bosnia happened to us with a repeated genocide – 1995 in Srebrenica.

Talking about our mistakes

UN Secretary-General  Antonio Guterres - remembering victims pf Holocaust (Courtesy photo for education only)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – remembering victims pf Holocaust (Courtesy photo for education only)

Talking on the virtual ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27th January (2022) As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reminded thatour first task is to remember those who perished – the six million Jews, the Roma and Sinti, LGBTQI-plus communities, people with disabilities, and countless others. But also to “remember the desperate pleas of Jews and others to the international community. And the shameful silence that met these pleas,” said Guterres.

The General Assembly resolution passed on January 20 by consensus also has marked the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, which formalized a “final solution to the Jewish question,” that included a plan to exterminate 11 million Jews across Europe. The UN resolution came as a response to the worrying rise in Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, hate speech and acts of hatred. Many UN diplomats acting on behalf of their governments for a long time were urging for adopting this resolution.

Its adoption has produced some relief and hinted at concrete action. And certainly, this resolution provides a solid foundation for developing tools to make better use of institutional memory.

Last Holocaust survivors

And when it comes to the restoration of the the memory we are running out of time. Famous producer of Oscar

Oscar wining producer Branko Lustig (1932-2019) Holocaust survivor from Croatia

Oscar wining producer Branko Lustig (1932-2019) Holocaust survivor from Croatia

winning film “Schindler’s List” late Branko Lustig (1932-2019), himself a Holocaust survivor from Croatia once said – the memory will  evaporate when the last Holocaust survivor dies. Certainly, the echoes of the 1930s and the resonance of those dark days today are the warning to whole mankind.

“We must remember: How easily hate speech turns to hate crime,” Mr. Guterres said.

Of course – education is a key word if we want want to really learn from the historical lessons.

It is devastating that more and more surveys indicate the increasing ignorance among young people about basic facts of the Holocaust. In particularly the young generations and even the older do not know the full truth or even nothing about that tragic historic event, the UN says.

And the adopted resolution is not important only for Jews or for state of Israel, but for other countries. The GA resolution is a joint proposal by the Israeli and German ambassadors co-sponsored by Bosnia and Herzegovina and others.

“Antisemitism, virulent anti-Muslim bigotry, persecution of Christians, racism, and anti-refugee hatred are becoming normalized in a coarsening public discourse – often amplified in online echo chambers of hate,” UN chief said on Auschwitz-Birkenau commemoration day at the UN.

Bosnia as a continued victim

Talking about the resolution professor of Philosophy, Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Southern Connecticut David Pettigrew who is involved in several projects to study and mark genocide in Srebrenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina also points out that the importance of the resolution  can’t be best measured – since it calls on member states to develop Holocaust education programs to prevent future acts of genocide. He commends countries that have shown the readiness to educate present and future generations.

The mentioned joint work by Israeli and German diplomats the resolution carries the universal dimension of this cooperation – as an instruction on how the Balkan countries could behave on similar issues – when marking historic days of Bosnian genocide, or commemorating the victims go Jasenovac – the biggest concentration camp in Balkans during WW2.

This joint apporoach is exactly what is missing in the Western Balkans region 26 years after the Srebrenica genocide (1995).

Professor David Pettigrew (Courtesy photo for education only)

Professor David Pettigrew (Courtesy photo for education only)

Thus, the UN resolution condemning the Holocaust denial „is extremely important to call on the conscience of the world and the UN General Assembly to condemn the denial of genocide, including the Srebrenica genocide, crimes against humanity and other war crimes. crimes committed from 1992 to 1995, ”said Professor Pettigrew.

„The UN General Assembly should also condemn the glorification of convicted war criminals in Republika Srpska (RS – smaller of two entities ) – such as the depiction of a mural by war criminal Ratko Mladic at the entrance to Kalinovik – another insidious form of denial.

“As we remember the victims of the Holocaust, it is our duty to bear witness to the truth about the Srebrenica genocide and other genocidal crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” David Pettigrew stressed.

The denial is the last phase of genocide

There is now recognition or open talk about genocide in Srebrenica in Serbia, and not to much on Serbian negative role in the war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina beside the fact that many verdicts of the UN courts in The Hague only reaffirms that role, while official Belgrade does not want to accept Serbian participation in it. And, with rare exceptions, Serbia even prevents enlightening education about aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina,. While denying their crime Serbian government even glorify convicted war criminals – giving them decorations, titles and state benefits. The denial of genocide, according to many scholars is the last stage of genocide. It even shows a willingness to perpetrate again the same crimes towards the same victims.

Lessons from Holocaust obviously didn’t work in Balkans during the last round of wars between 1991-1995. In Sarajevo they say that denial of genocide by Serbian side continues almost on daily basis. And that is why we need to apply historical lessons from Holocaust.

Bisera Turkovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo Raport.ba for edu. only)

Bisera Turkovic, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Photo Raport.ba for edu. only)

Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Bisera Turković on the Holocaust Memorial Day stressed the importance of remembering and giving respect to all the victims of the Holocaust, which she called – one of the worst crimes against humanity. It is obviously very important for her country. She pointed that “there are still evil forces that are actively trying to minimize the truth and outrightly deny and glorify convicted war criminals.”

“Unfortunately, these actions set the stage and foreshadow a repeat of the darkest days of our history,” Mrs. Turkovic said, herself of Muslim, catholic and Jewish origin.

“The denial of the Holocaust and genocide as adjudicated by international courts comes as an insult to Holocaust and genocide survivors. We owe them to do our utmost to stop the denial, relativization, or misinterpretation of the darkest days of human history. This is our obligation to all the victims of these heinous atrocities,” Turkovic said.

“What we see today must worry us – and jolt us into action.  A resurgence of Holocaust denial.  Attempts to rewrite history,” she said.

And there are efforts to whitewash and rehabilitate people who committed crimes against humanity, wich specially bothers people in Bosnia and Herzegovina FM mister Turkovic also said.

Even a quarter of a century after war ended in Dayton Ohio by the efforts of Clinton administration – Bosnia and Herzegovina still have a problems with some Bosnian Serb politicians denying the most serious crimes, including the Srebrenica genocide. The political structure in the smaller BiH entity Republika Srpska (RS) is at the forefront of this. And the law that regulates this issue still doesn’t work.

The law the is not implemented

Concluding his 12-year term (2009-2021), former High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina Valentin Inzko – after realizing that BiH Parliament has repeatedly avoided passing a law for punishing denial of genocide and other war crimes against humanity - imposed such law at the end of his term in July 2021 using the so-called “Bonn powers”.

Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, briefs the Security Council on the situation in that country., UN, New York (UN Photo by Manuel Elias)

Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, briefs the Security Council on the situation in that country., UN, New York (UN Photo by Manuel Elias)

Although he only rewrote European legislation on a similar law that in some European countries provide for the judicial punishment of Holocaust deniers – “Inzko’s law” as it was called in BiH in the meantime – has created a real storm by adding fuel to Bosnia’s political agony. Bosnian Serbs, led by Milorad Dodik, who is already on the US “black list” of sanctions – blocked the work of joint state institutions out of protest. And he stated that “Inzko’s law” was a main reason for that. Yet, it was only the tip of the iceberg.

The current Dodik’s political blockade is by far the most serious attack on Dayton in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the end of the 1995 war. It is still ongoing stalemate of fragile Bosnian state.

In a meantime, most of the Bosnian officials in Sarajevo are firm and consider that Mr. Inzko has made a principled decision by imposing this law. What is important – this law satisfies not only Bosniaks, as some Bosnian Serb leaders claim. It is widely known that mostly Bosnian Muslims considered to be the biggest victims of the last war – as opposed to Bosnian Serbs who were, according to the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) the main culprits for those crimes. The Army of Republika Srpska (RS) was found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica; more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys, men and the elderly in the summer of 1995 were summary executed by the RS Army. Their wartime commander General Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic have been convicted  by the ICTY to life imprisonment.

The fact is that the genocide and crimes are mostly denied among Bosnian Serbs and are often subject to political propaganda, while convicted war criminals are glorified in the rank of heroes (?!) in Serbia. Inzko’s law threatens to prosecute all those who are involved in such  denial. But, it has also created political turmoil which became instrumental in local Bosnian politics where Mr. Dodik continues to threaten even with secession of RS from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Latest UN action could help

And the latest resolution passed by the UN General Assembly condemning the Holocaust denial could be very useful for Bosnia, a diplomat said. Learning facts about Jewish people tragedy during WW2 is a useful tool to send message from the UN to to the Balkan genocide deniers. And to show the world is united in condemning such uncivilized behavior.

“Adoption of  the resolution to condemn Holocaust denial in the UN General Assembly, reaffirms values and core

Sven Alkalaj and Antonio Guterres (UN photo credit 2019)

Sven Alkalaj and Antonio Guterres (UN photo credit 2019)

principles incorporated in the foundations of the United Nations, an institution built in the wake of the Holocaust and the Second World War,” ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the UN Sven Alkalaj told WebPublicaPress (WPP).

He said adhering to the pledge of ‘Never Again’ urges member states including Bosnia and Herzegovina who cosponsored this resolution – to develop educational programs that will I”nculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide,” said ambassador Alkalaj, himself a Bosnian Jew. His family from the father’s side perished in the Jasenovac camp in Croatia during WW2.

Mr. Alkalaj said it is petty that despite the pledge ‘Never Again’ UN witnessed two terrible genocides happened in front of the eyes of the world: Act of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1995) and Ruanda (1994).

“Obviously, people did not learn the history lessons.”

Bosnian UN ambassador added, “we must repeat these lessons over and over,” and bring it to the young generations who do not remember Holocaust but remember genocide in Srebrenica.

And he suggested similar UN General Assembly resolution on Bosnia and Hercegovina could be passed on East River to help Sarajevo to fight genocide and war crime denial.

“I am looking at the time when we would pass (in the UN General Assembly) the similar (resolutions) on Bosnia and Ruanda,” ambassador Alkalaj told WPP.

Silence is not a option - call for action

And since the UN General Assembly resolution warns that ignoring the historical facts on Holocaust risk of recurrence, Bosnia and Herzegovina where many still fearing a repeat of their own tragic history would like to use this UN resolution as a sober reminder. They also would like UN to talk about Bosnia more often, recognizes recent Bosnian history and call for action.

Thus “it is important to recall that the crimes committed in Srebrenica are assessed as genocide by number of judicial bodies, including the ICTY and the International Court of Justice,” professor Pettigrew reminded.

He told Bosnian News Agency FENA, the leadership of BH. entity of the Republika Srpska, from BiH Presidency

David Pettigrew speaking about Rebrenica I Sarajevo (Bosnian media photo for education only)

David Pettigrew speaking about Rebrenica I Sarajevo (Bosnian media photo for education only)

member Milorad Dodik to Srebrenica Mayor Mladen Grujicic, denies the Srebrenica genocide, as well as other crimes assessed as crimes against humanity and other war crimes. Mr. Pettigrew urged that appropriate memorials be erected so that everyone would know and learn what happened in the last war in BiH.

“In accordance with the content and goals of the Resolution, the UN General Assembly should officially support the establishment of memorials and museums on the sites of former concentration camps such as Omarska (concentration camp site near Prijedor) and  in Bratunac (Srebrenica) in Bosnia and Herzegovina — to educate future generations and prevent recurrence of genocide in BiH. anywhere in the world,” Pettigrew underlined.

“The world and next generations will be judging us,” ambassador Sven Alkalaj told WebPublicaPress as well.

Silence is not an option.

And “silence in the face of bigotry is complicity,” UN Secretary-General Guterres said on Holocaus Day commemoration on January 27th.

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