UNESCO, the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the Second World War. Its mission is to establish new foundations for the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind. Yet today, as the remaining survivors disappear, Holocaust denial, revisionism, glorification and anti-Semitism are on the rise. This is why the U.S. and many other countries worked together to build consensus in 2007 in UNESCO’s General Conference to give the organization the mandate to develop Holocaust Education programs within the United Nations system.
UNESCO is uniquely positioned to reach out to the world community to make a difference in a way that matters. Its role in Holocaust education affirms the goals shared by the late Democratic Representative Tom Lantos of California -- the only Holocaust survivor ever to have served in Congress -- and President George W. Bush, who worked together seven years ago to return the U.S. to UNESCO in order to promote human rights and freedom throughout the world.
UNESCO’s work is to develop programs that encourage intercultural dialogue. That work will help other countries move away from using texts such as the notorious anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in their school curricula. Too many children around the world are not learning the truth about the Holocaust, due to teachers who are either misinformed or misrepresenting history. UNESCO assists by providing materials to teachers that help them understand the truth about the Holocaust and how best to teach it.
Such programs require support. Private individuals, companies, and foundations, as well as governments, can help UNESCO in this vital work. Our common challenge is to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust continue to be taught to future generations. A trip like the one I am on today is important because it brings a diverse group of leaders of different faiths to the very ground where man inflicted unimaginable atrocities on his fellow man. Even more important, however, is our obligation to teach children about the past in order to preserve our world for the future. UNESCO can help bring the world together in this vital work.
David T. Killion is the U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO with the rank of Ambassador.