Avinoam Patt, PhD., the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History and associate director of the Greenberg Center, participated in a conference in Rome on February 16-17, 2017 organized by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and the Holy See (the Vatican). The conference, held at the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, focused on refugee policies from 1933 to today in order to apply lessons from history to the challenges of the current global refugee crisis, the largest since WWII. At a time when the current situation of refugees in Europe and the Middle East continues to dominate the news and the political arena, the conference brought together experts in Holocaust history and contemporary policy-makers to reflect on the past with a view to concretely informing positive, ethically responsible, and rational policy-making today. The outcome of the conference was a concrete set of recommendations for international policy-makers.
Patt’s presentation, “No Place for the Displaced: The Jewish Refugee Crisis Before, During, and After WWII” examined the experiences and responses of Jewish refugees, communities, and international organizations in addressing the Jewish refugee crisis before, during, and after the Holocaust. While the international community has been slow to respond to the challenges of the refugee crisis today, just as in the period before, during, and after WWII, Patt spoke on the need to be sensitive to the experience of displacement and the responsibilities we carry to protect the rights of all humans. Patt suggested that refugees and NGOs have been more successful than governments and international bodies in responding to refugee crises in the past, and that policy makers should continue to empower refugees themselves in developing effective responses to the current crisis. Historians and policy makers must bear in mind the impact of statelessness and powerlessness to shape subsequent political actions and behavior.
Other speakers included Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, Secretariat of State of the Holy See, who addressed participants on the opening evening of the conference. The key-note speaker was H.E Mgr. Silvano Maria Tomasi, Secretary Delegate of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. Mgr. Silvano Tomasi was Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva and co-founded the Center for Migration Studies, a think tank based in New York.
Among panelists focused on developing contemporary policies were Michael O'Flaherty, Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, European Union Fundamental Rights Agency, Mr. Stephane Jaquemet, Regional Representative for Southern Europe of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Ms. Kristina Touzenis, Head of the International Migration Law Unit, International Organization for Migration, and Mr. Stefan Lehne, Carnegie Europe, Brussels.
Additional details on the conference are available here: