Friday, 23 February 2018

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Ciné-ONU Liège: Bogdan's Journey

Panel Members at Ciné-ONU debate, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Liège. Credits UNRIC, Brussels.

26 January 2018 - On the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, under the banner of Ciné-ONU and in partnership with the Territoires de la Mémoire, the Association for the United Nations (APNU) and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), the Cité Miroir of Liège hosted the screening of the film "Bogdan's Journey" this January 25, 2018.

Bogdan Bialek is a Polish Catholic journalist and psychologist who in the late 1990s, decided to start a process of remembrance in the Polish city of Kielce. For the city of Kielce, the tragic event began on July 4, 1946, when a group of citizens murdered more than forty Holocaust survivors who had found refuge in the 7/9 house along Planty Street. The massacre was based on the words of a boy who had accused a Jew from having held him prisoner in the 7/9 house. Since then, the pogrom of 7/9 Planty Street has become a symbol of Polish anti-Semitism which was repressed during the communist era but never forgotten.

Over time, and with great effort, Bogdan manages to persuade the people of Kielce to face up to their painful history. Bodgan who is confronted with the deep prejudices from fellow citizens throughout the process, continues to reconnect Kielce with the outer Jewish community. His objective is not to blame the Poles, as the whole of Europe sadly participated in the genocide of the Jews; his goal is to make peace with the city’s history, through recognition. According to Bogdan, "Kielce is no longer today responsible for the pogrom, but for rather for its recollection.”

After showing Secretary-General António Guterres’ video-message calling for “shared responsibility” towards racism and hatred, the debate was introduced and moderated by Morgan François Minchin from the United Nations Regional Information Center (UNRIC), who underlined that the film "Bogdan's Journey" was not randomly chosen. This film reveals aspects of racism that continue to exist in today's Europe. Birgit Van Hout, the Regional Representative for Europe of the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR), stated that: "Poland is a country with little social diversity but where there is still a fear of the other. But what makes the other, is his or her differences which is ultimately what we all share and possess. And yet there are people who seek to distinguish themselves from each other.” Jérôme Jamin, President of the Territoires de la Mémoire and Professor in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law, and Criminology at the University of Liège, then added that the film highlighted a complex problem about antisemitism, not to be confused with the refusal to initiate a process of collective memory.

The debate then discussed the current problem of "fake news" and how to act concretely against their threat. According to Birgit Van Hout, you have to be aware of the role each individual can play. "I am equally both worried and optimistic about what is happening in Europe at present, because there is now an active civil society, which can have a real impact on issues which individuals can find close to their heart.” Professor Jamin tackled another problem related to virtual platforms: the spread of hate speech. According to him in "real life" discussions there is always some form of social control, a self-regulation or "atomization" which prevents misbehaviour. This control however cannot be applied as effectively within social networks: "there is a certain comfort to being at home and not being confronted with the real reactions from others."

The Power of Nazi Propaganda exhibition, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Liège. Credits UNRIC, Brussels.

Following concluding remarks on further tackling issues related to racism and xenophobia today, members of the audience were encouraged to visit the temporary exhibition "State of Deception, the Power of Nazi Propaganda" carried out by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in partnership with the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. This exhibition aims to encourage citizens and world leaders to reject hatred, to prevent genocide and to defend human dignity.

For more information:

  • On the movie: click here
  • On the temporary exhibition “State of Deception, the Power of Nazi Propaganda”: click here
  • On the Cité Miroir’s permanent exhibition “Never again!”: click here

 

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