“The Courage to Care: Rescue during the Holocaust”

Every year around 27 January, UNESCO pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. This date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Soviet troops in 1945.  

The Nazi regime and its collaborators murdered about six million Jewish men, women and children during the Second World War, in a systematic attempt to destroy European Jewry.

The history of the genocide perpetrated during the Second World War does not belong to the past only. It is a ‘living history’ that concerns us all, regardless of our background, culture, or religion. Other genocides have occurred after the Holocaust, on several continents. How can we draw better lessons from the past?  

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director General

They also persecuted and killed millions of others, such as the Roma and Sinti, people with disabilities, political opponents, homosexuals and countless members of other groups, driven by a racist ideology.

In 2013, the theme chosen by the United Nations for this International Day is “The Courage to Care: Rescue during the Holocaust”. It highlights the exceptional actions of individuals or groups who contributed to save Jews from the grasp of Nazi Germany. In contrast to an indifferent majority, they refused to stand by while innocents were being murdered and they took action despite tremendous danger. These stories of rescue are rare but provide strong evidence that action is always possible in the face of injustice and gross violations of human rights.

Holocaust Education

Teaching and learning about the Holocaust calls attention to issues that are central in UNESCO’s mission to build peace and to promote of human rights. UNESCO works with its Member States in an effort to develop educational programmes to teach young generations the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help prevent future acts of genocide, in line with the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 and UNESCO General Conference resolution 61 on “Holocaust remembrance”.


UNESCO is presenting exhibitions illustrating the specific “rescue” dimension of Holocaust history. Two exhibits will be dedicated respectively to the particular cases of Bulgaria and of Denmark, in which important parts of the society reacted to protect the Jewish population from deportations. Another exhibition, especially prepared for this occasion by the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, presents video testimonies of survivors who were rescued during the Holocaust. 

A special ceremony on 28 January will feature prominent personalities, such as French Minister of Education Vincent Peillon and lawyer, historian and Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfled.  

President of Bulgaria Rossen Plevneliev is guest of honour of this special day and will speak during the ceremony. 

The Organization and the Office of the United Nations Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide are also organizing a high-level panel discussion on Holocaust Education and the Prevention of Genocide, with the support of the Kingdom of Belgium. The conference will take place at UNESCO headquarters on 28 January. Holocaust and genocide scholars will discuss the challenges ahead to better develop education about the Holocaust and mainstream the prevention of genocide. United Nations Under-Secretary General Mr Adama Dieng will participate in this public event and highlight the importance of raising awareness among young people and policy-makers about the danger that genocide still represents today.  

In addition, UNESCO will hold a videoconference in partnership with the Shoah Memorial on 21 January with journalists and other media professionals gathered in the field offices of Bujumbura, Dakar, Kinshasa, Libreville and Yaoundé. The discussion will be introduced by Mr Yves Ternon, genocide scholar, and will include a testimony of Ms Ginette Kolinka, Holocaust survivor.



UNESCO Headquarters, Paris France

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Monday, 28 January 2013 | Conference

From Holocaust Education to the Prevention  of Genocide: What have we learnt from the Past?, Room II, from 3.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.

With the participation of:

  • Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO;
  • Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide;
  • Edward Kissi, Professor at the Department of Africana studies of the University of South Florida (USA/Ghana);
  • Dan Michman, Historian, Director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Yad Vashem (Israel);
  • Karen Pollock, Executive Director of the Holocaust Educational Trust (United Kingdom);
  • Samuel Pisar, writer and lawyer, Holocaust survivor, UNESCO Honorary Ambassador, Special Envoy for Holocaust Education.

Conference organized in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide and with the support of the Permanent Delegation of the Kingdom of Belgium to UNESCO

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Monday, 28 January 2013 | Ceremony

Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust,  Room I, 7.30 p.m.

  • Screening of the short film Les Justes by Emmanuel Finkiel;
  • Speeches:
    - Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO;  
    - Eric de Rothschild, President of the Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris);
    - Nimrod Barkan, Ambassador, Permanent  Delegate of Israel to
    - Vincent Peillon, French Minister of Education;

Guest of honour:

          - Rossen Plevneliev, President of the Republic of Bulgaria;

  • Reading of a text written by Jean-Claude Grumberg by Guila Clara Kessous, UNESCO Artist for Peace, and actor Francis Huster;
  • Testimony of Serge Klarsfeld, historian and lawyer, President of the association Fils et filles des déportés juifs de France;
  • Musical pieces performed by Pascal Amoyel (piano) and Emmanuelle Bertrand (cello);
  • Prayers by Adolphe Attia, Officiating Minister
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From 28 January to 4 February 2013 | Exhibitions

Resistance and rescue in Denmark - Photographies by Judy Ellis Glickman, Pas Perdus Room

The history of Shoah in Denmark is an exception in European history: 99 % of the Jewish population survived the German occupation, the majority of the Jews of Denmark succeeded in escaping to Sweden with the help of the Danish resistance and numerous citizens of the country. Those who were deported stayed in Theresienstadt and were finally transferred in Sweden before the end of the war. What is more, most of the Jews found their houses and synagogues intact at their return in 1945 because there were no systematic looting organized in Denmark.

This exhibition was prepared at the beginning of 1990s by the photographer Judy Ellis Glickmann and by the founder and director of Humanity in Action, Judith Goldstein, and entrusted to the Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris) to ensure its circulation in Europe. Since then, new research on Denmark and the Holocaust has been published and an updated version of the text was prepared by the Mémorial de la Shoah for the French version.

Rescue: Preserving Humanity during the Holocaust , Miró Halls

This multimedia exhibition presented by the University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation, Institute for Visual History and Education consists of five monitors running different reels of testimonies on a loop. Visitors will be guided through the exhibition by a series of panels discussing the theme of each reel – Community Rescue, Diplomats and Rescue, Rescuing Children, Religion and Rescue, and Recognizing Rescue. The testimonies will offer a multiplicity of voices and experiences of rescue during the Holocaust. Stories of survival; of difficult decisions and strategies of how to participate in rescue activities will immerse the audience in the rich history of WWII and provide a tribute to those who participated in rescue activities.

The University of Southern California Shoah Foundation was created in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and safeguard testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust.

The Rescue 1943
Dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the rescue of the Bulgarian Jews Foyer

The documentary exhibition of the Archives State Agency of Bulgaria, realized in cooperation with Yad Vashem, Israel, and using also private archives, is structured around several themes: Integration of Jews in the society, Bulgaria’s accession into the Tripartite Pact on March 1st, 1940 and the adoption of the Law for the Protection of the Nation resulting in the deprivation of the 48 000 strong Jewish population of their civil and political rights, the deportation of almost 11 000 Jews from the so called New Territories in Vardar Macedonia and Aegean Thrace and, finally, the strong resistance of the Bulgarian society, members of Parliament, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Christian Orthodox Church and members of the Clergy, intellectuals. As a result, all 48 000 Jews of the Kingdom of Bulgaria were rescued from deportation to the death camps.

Brochure 2013

  • Why Teach about the Holocaust?

    The Holocaust was a turning point in human history. Understanding the genocide of the Jewish people and other crimes perpetrated by the Nazi regime remains of great significance in the modern world.

    Regardless of where we live or who we are, learning about this universal history can help engage students in a critical reflection about the roots of genocide and the necessity to nurture peace and human rights to prevent such atrocities in the future.

    This short introduction provides an essential overview on education about the Holocaust that can support policymakers, educators and students alike in their understanding of genocide and why it is vital that we continue to teach about the Holocaust today.  Download the Publication

Understanding Holocaust Education - Paul Salmons

Source: UNESCO Multimedia Archives

USC Shoah Foundation