23.03.2012 - ODG

Director-General Visits Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles

© UNESCO/ George Papagiannis - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova on a tour of the museum’s key exhibits by Museum Director Liebe Geft, March 2012

Themes of tolerance, humanity and vigilance were the focus of Director General Irina Bokova’s visit to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles on Thursday. Following a tour of the museum’s key exhibits by Museum Director Liebe Geft, the Director-General offered condolences to the families of the Jewish school children and their teacher, who were shot and killed in front of their school in Toulouse. “The tragic scenes that we have seen unfolding in France remind us that anti-Semitism and the rejection of the other are still with us,” she said.

The Director-General went on to speak about the strengthening of the partnership between UNESCO and the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance.  She was particularly impressed with the broad approach the Museum has taken to explaining bigotry and hatred, incorporating gender based violence and intolerance against peoples other than the Jewish people in the exhibits.  Recalling last year’s UNESCO-Aladin Project sponsored visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau for the observance of Holocaust Remembrance, the Director-General spoke of the Grand Mufti of Sarajevo who was among 150 participants at the ceremony that included other imams, rabbis, priests and political leaders.  “He said we need to teach what happened here and to never forget,” the Director-General said.   

"Human rights education is profoundly anchored in UNESCO"s Constitution and mission", said the Director-General, as it is the only UN Agency tasked with the mission to promote Holocaust Education which it undertakes through a number of partnerships, among them with Yad Vashem in Israel, the Shoah Memorial in France, the Aladin Project, and the Taskforce for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.

Joining the Director-General at the museum were also members of the diplomatic community from Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Spain, as well as the Grauer School, a UNESCO Associated School from Encinitas, California, just north of San Diego.

During the visit, founder and dean of the Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper confirmed the holding of a traveling exhibition on 3,500 years of the relationship of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, which is being curated by the renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert and will visit UN Headquarters in New York, UNESCO headquarters in Paris, as well as other countries.

Following the visit to the center and museum, the Director-General met with Cliff Goldstein, regional president of the American Jewish Committee, and members of the AJC in Los Angeles. 

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