December 8, 2007

Blog from Prague II

Flags of ITF Member Countries

I attended the final Plenary Session of the Czech Chairmanship of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research in Prague. This meeting was also my last as the Chair of the Museums and Memorials Working Group. Beyond the real meanginful work of the Task Force, these meetings provide a useful opportuinity to connect with colleagues from around the world. The major issues at this meeting involved the establishment of a permanent office for the Task Force in Berlin and the engagement of a permanent Executive Secretary. Since the Task Force operates by consensus, the meetings involve a unusual brand of diplomacy. Much of the work takes place in the hallway and at the dining table, with passionate lobbying and intensive jaw-boning.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwartzenberg Opens Plenary

Task Force Plenary Session
My Working Group met for two long days. In addition to making decisions on applications for the funding of projects, we addressed the appropriate follow-up to our important work in June on Historic Sites and charted our work for the future, which will focus on best practices for Museum education.

Gate at Small Fortress in Terezin

We visited Theresienstadt (Terezin), which was the site of a Ghetto, which incarcerated tens of thousands of Jews from around Europe. It was also the site of a great propaganda hoax, the socalled beautification action, which was engineered by the Germans to fool representatives of the Internation Red Cross, who visited the the Ghetto in 1944.

ITF Delegates Visit Terezin

For me the most striking aspect of our visit was learning that much of the former ghetto is the current home for Czech citizens, who live where Jews were once forced to live. Among the most moving of the sites we visited was the secret synagogue, which served as one of the several clandestine places of prayer for Jews in Theresienstadt.

Terezin Museum Display

ITF Delegates Visit Terezin Secret Synagogue

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