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International Conference Opens Sunday at Yad Vashem: Confronting History - The Historical Commissions of Inquiry

24 December 2002

Dozens of representatives of European historical commissions of inquiry will participate in an international conference sponsored by the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem in conjunction with the World Jewish Congress, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc., and the World Jewish Restitution Organization (W.J.R.O.). This is the first time that a conference will take place in Israel that brings together representatives of the various commissions with their colleagues to examine their overall findings.

Over 50 historical commissions were established in Europe in the last decade, with the main aim of probing the question of Jewish plundered property. “Although these topics are all highly important, the historical commissions also deal with other topics of equal importance that pertain to ‘moral settlement,’ including questions like: to what extent were local populations and institutions complicit in the persecution, lack of protest, or silence in the face of the persecution of the Jews? And how were Jews who returned to their homes post-war received by the various governments and local populations?” explains Professor David Bankier, Head of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research.

The aim of the conference is to examine the successes and failures of the various historical commissions. During the course of the conference, representatives of the commissions will present the developments in their respective countries that led to the establishment of the commission, its various responsibilities, subjects of research, and their findings. Conference sessions will cover: the historical commissions in Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Holland, Norway, Israel and the United States; confronting the Holocaust in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia; the role of the press; and the commissions and Holocaust research.

Lawrence Eagelburger, former United States Secretary of State, who is the Chairman of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims (ICHEIC), will be the keynote speaker at the opening session of the conference, which will be Sunday, December 29 at 7:00 in the evening in the lecture hall of the International School of Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem. Additional speakers during the opening session will be Speaker of the Knesset, MK Avraham Burg; Chairman of the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress and Co-Chairman of the W.J.R.O. Executive, Dr. Israel Singer; MK Rabbi Michael Melchior; MK Abraham Hirchson; and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Avner Shalev.

The conference is made possible by the generous support of the Gertner Center for International Holocaust Conferences. Conference sessions are open to the public. Sessions will take place in the auditorium of Yad Vashem in Hebrew and English with simultaneous translation.