International Holocaust Conference Marking End of Czech EU Presidency this Friday

Artdaily 24 June 2009

PRAGUE.- Held under the auspices of the Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, President of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Přemysl Sobotka, Chairperson of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, Miloslav Vlček, and the former President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel, the Holocaust Era Assets Conference will be held in Prague and Terezín, Czech Republic, on 26-30 June 2009, hosted by the Government of the Czech Republic in co-operation with the Forum 2000 Foundation, Documentation Centre of Property Transfers of Cultural Assets of WW II Victims, Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, Jewish Museum in Prague, Terezín Memorial, and Institute of Jewish Studies at the Hussite Theological Faculty of Charles University in Prague.

Senator Alexandr Vondra¸ an author of the idea of organising a conference during the Czech EU presidency believes that “the Holocaust, Shoah, was both the greatest mass murder and the greatest mass robbery ever. The aim of this conference is to arouse a permanent interest of the international public in this issue – educate the people, compensate for material damages, and provide social and health assistance to Shoah survivors.”

Held at the Žofín Palace in Prague on Friday, 26 June 2009, the opening ceremony of the conference will welcome the Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel, former President of the European Parliament, Simone Veil, and the Czech Minister for European Affairs, Štefan Füle.

On 27-28 June 2009, a number of thematic topics selected by the specialised working groups will be discussed by professional experts: settlement of property claims (movable and immovable assets), provenance of stolen works of art, Judaica and Jewish cultural property, and education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust.

The Chairperson of the conference Organising Committee, Miloš Pojar, points out that “unlike the Washington Conference that addressed property issues, this conference will additionally focus on youth educational programmes, social programmes aimed at Nazi victims, and Shoah research activities and dignified remembrance that will bridge the past and future.”

Attended by the government representatives, the plenary session of the conference will take place at the Prague Congress Centre on Monday, 29 June 2009. The Czech Republic will be represented by the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jan Kohout, and the European Commission by Ján Figeľ; the US delegation will be headed by the former Under Secretary of State, Stuart Eizenstat. The conference expects to welcome representatives of 49 countries, Czech and international non-government organisations, professional experts, and media.

In the presence of the Czech Prime Minister, Jan Fischer, and an EU representative, a Terezín Declaration will be announced and a Memorandum of the Czech EU Presidency signed with the EU at the end of the conference in Terezín on Tuesday, 30 June 2009. Commemorating the Defiant Requiem by Verdi performed in the Terezín ghetto, the closing concert conducted by Murry Sidlin of the Oregon Philharmonic will take place at the former Terezín Riding School.

The rich accompanying programme of the conference will see the exhibition of Jewish art entitled “Memories Returned” at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague on 26 June 2009 and a press conference on “Ransom for Life” – a book by Helena Krejčová and Mario Vlček.

On Saturday, 27 June 2009, the memorial plaque of Lenka Reinerová will be unveiled on the first anniversary of her death and the latest book of her memoirs – Ferry Ticket – presented.

The accompanying programme of the conference will additionally see the world premier of Golem 13, a kabbalistic drama by George Whyte set to music by Noam Sheriff performed at the Prague National Theatre, the exhibition of Edward Serotta entitled “Library of Rescued Memories” and other exhibitions organised by participating countries.

The conference will also be accompanied by a film festival, The Legacy of Shoa. Held under the auspices of Ben Kingsley at the Prague cinema Světozor on 27-28 June 2009, the festival will welcome the Czech-American director of documentaries and writer, Zuzana Justmanová, whose debut documentary of 1989 – Terezín Diary – was inspired by the diaries she wrote during her stay at Terezín in 1943-1945. The festival will present her award-winning documentary of 1997, Voices of the Children – an Emmy award-winning story for Outstanding Historical Programming of three people who have survived the imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camps.

Apart from another award-winning documentary, Children of the Night, by Marion Wiesel, the festival will present other documentaries, including the successful “Forgotten Transports” series by Lukáš Přibyl (the “Forgotten Transports to Poland” won the 2009 One World International Documentary Film Festival Public Award), films by Pavel Štingl such as Ghetto Called Baluty, the documentary by Matěj Mináč, The Power of Good, and feature films on the Holocaust – The Shop on Main Street, Distant Journey and Defiance.

On June 22-26 2009, documentary films on the Holocaust will be screened for schoolchildren at the Prague cinema Světozor. Presented within the “One World at Schools” project carried out by People in Need, a Czech non-profit organization, the screenings will be followed by discussions with filmmakers and witnesses. Apart from the above-mentioned films, the children will see the documents Hitler, Stalin and Me by Helena Třeštíková, Seven Lights by Olga Sommerová, and Birds of a Black Feather by Břetislav Rychlík.
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