LOS ANGELES – On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am honored to be spending this month at the USC Shoah Foundation, reviewing testimonies of persons who did their part to set right one of history’s terrible wrongs.
Seventy-three years ago today, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the infamous Nazi concentration camp located about 45 miles west of Kraków, Poland. Liberations of other camps by other Allied forces soon followed; among them, the U.S. liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, and the British liberation of Bergen-Belsen 4 days later.
Sixty years later, a 2005 U.N. General Assembly resolution set this date aside for commemoration of World War II atrocities; to quote the resolution, of
“… the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities …”
The resolution further:
- honored “the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated the concentration camps”;
- rejected “any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event”;
- envisaged the Holocaust as “a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice”;
- denounced “all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur”; and
- encouraged initiatives designed to “inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide.”
Among the many such initiatives are memorial centers and foundations throughout the world – 2 of which have helped me in my own research into the roles that women played during postwar international criminal trials at Nuremberg.
In December, the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, located in Glen Cove, New York, opened its archives to me. Special thanks to Helen Turner, archivist and Director of Youth Education, for her assistance.
This month, as the inaugural Breslauer, Rutman and Anderson Research Fellow, I am in residence at the University of Southern California, examining documents in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. It has been a fruitful and moving scholarly experience, and I look forward to sharing my research at a public lecture on campus at 4 p.m. this Tuesday, Jan. 30 (as I was honored to do last week at UCLA Law’s Promise Institute for Human Rights; video here). Special thanks to all at the foundation’s Center for Advanced Research – Wolf Gruner, Martha Stroud, Badema Pitic, Isabella Evalynn Lloyd-Damnjanovic, and Marika Stanford-Moore – and to the donors who endowed the research fellowship. (Fellowship info here.)
As reflected in the 2005 General Assembly resolution, the work of such institutions helps to entrench – and to prevent backsliding from – states’ promises to ensure and respect human rights and dignity norms, set out in instruments like the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. To this list I would add the many documents establishing international criminal fora to prosecute persons charge with violating such norms – from the Nuremberg-era tribunals through to today’s International Criminal Court.