January 25, 2023
written by 
Katharina von Schnurbein, European Coordinator on Combating antisemitism and Fostering Jewish life

Countering Holocaust distortion in the EU: EU Strategy and EU funding opportunities

Europe was built on the ashes of the Shoah. Its history is defined by the legacy of the Holocaust, during which six million Jewish children, women and men were murdered. While Jews were the priority target of the Nazi regime and its collaborators, other groups were also persecuted, including Roma, persons with disabilities, Slavs, Jehovah’s witnesses, LGBTIQ+ people and political dissidents.

All people in Europe should be aware of the universal lessons of the Shoah. Currently, however, one European in 20 has never heard of the Holocaust, and less than half of Europeans think it is sufficiently taught in schools. The rise of Holocaust distortion, denial and trivialisation, which feed hatred against Jewish people and try to erase and rewrite European and Jewish history, compounds this problem.

Action to counter these trends is urgently needed. With this in mind, the European Commission developed  the first-ever comprehensive EU Strategy on Combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, presented on 5 October 2021. Countering Holocaust distortion is an essential part of it. So is supporting organisations across Europe with funding to work against this pernicious threat.

The EU’s Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life

The latest report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) made clear that, in Europe and beyond, antisemitism is worryingly on the rise. The newly released  EU Strategy takes a three-pronged approach to tackling this problem:  

  • preventing all forms of antisemitism
  • securing and fostering Jewish life
  • promoting remembrance and education about Holocaust

More concretely, the Strategy proposes cooperating with online companies to curb antisemitism online, providing funding for the protection of public places and places of worship, setting up a European research hub on antisemitism and Jewish life, and creating a network of sites where the Holocaust happened, among other activities. Those actions will be reinforced by the EU’s international efforts to lead of the global fight against antisemitism.

To keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, the Commission will support the creation of a network of places where the Holocausttook place, but which are not always known, such as hiding places or shooting grounds. The Commission will also support a new network of Young European Ambassadors to promote remembrance of the Holocaust.

To highlight Jewish heritage, the Commission will invite cities applying for the title of European Capital of Culture to address the history of their minorities, including Jewish community history.

Countering Holocaust distortion to turn the tide of rising antisemitism

The fight against Holocaust distortion features prominently in the EU Strategy. The EU will work together with international partners and civil society groups to raise awareness of Holocaust denial and distortion and to actively counter it. With EU funding, the Commission will promote the use of the IHRA working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion for education and awareness-raising. It will develop a handbook on best practices of countering Holocaust denial, distortion and trivialisation, and support and strengthen the Protect the Facts social media campaign together with the IHRA, the United Nations and UNESCO.

EU funding to counter distortion and other activities: Calls now open

The EU Strategy also underlines that the Commission will make dedicated funding available through the new Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme to:

  • commemorate the Holocaust
  • counter Holocaust denial, distortion and trivialisation
  • educate future generations
  • help to digitalise archives and testimonies of Holocaust survivors

With 1.5 billion EUR, the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme represents the largest fund for programmes related to fundamental rights inside the EU. Under the Programme’s European Remembrance call, the European Commission has made 8 million EUR available to support museums, memorial and education sites, as well as civil society organisations with a particular focus on strengthening Holocaust remembrance, education and research and combating Holocaust denial and distortion. The call has been published and interested parties can learn more about it and apply here. Applications for funding will be accepted from NGOs, CSOs, registered associations and public authorities. Additionally, the Commission will allocate 1.7 million EUR annually in the form of Framework Partnership agreements to support the day-to-day operations of organisations working on Holocaust remembrance, education and research.

Together, the EU Strategy and the EU calls for funding support efforts to counter Holocaust distortion from the grassroots to the policy level – because Holocaust distortion affects all of us. And countering it is everyone’s responsibility.

The views expressed by the individual contributors to the blog do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the United Nations, UNESCO, or officials of Member States of the European Commission, IHRA, the United Nations and UNESCO.

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