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St. Petersburg, 24 April 2010

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre - Europe(SWC-E), together with French association Verbe et Lumiere-Vigilance, joined the Russian Ministry of Education, the St Petersburg Government and the human rights group Citizens Watch, for a European Seminar on "The Lessons of World War Two", within the context of the St. Petersburg State University (SPSU) annual conference on "Tolerance and Intolerance in Modern Society".

Held under the auspices of UNESCO, its Director General Irina Bokova's message was presented by her advisor, Dr. Graciela Samuels.

The greeting noted the conference's "special importance to UNESCO.... in this International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures", and how "the horror of WWII demonstrated all too vividly what becomes of societies when intolerance and hatred are allowed to take hold", adding that "globalization has also generated new pressures and tensions that have given rise to fear and mistrust.... fertile ground for racism...." 

SPSU Vice-Rector, Nikolai Skvortsev, viewed the seminar as the prelude to the 65th Victory Commemoration to be held in Russia on 9 May.

Red Army hero, Daniil Alshits recounted his experiences on the Leningrad Front during the 900 day Nazi Siege of the city.
SWC-E Director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, stressed that "WWII is an early warning system for contemporary genocidal intent".

Former Archibishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, spoke of political cowardice, the deficit of democracy and the collapse of the Church in the lead up toward WWII.
Paris-based Newsweek Bureau Chief, Christopher Dickey, analyzed media responsability in wartime through FD Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms". He concluded that "radical Islam has adopted its techniques from the Bolsheviks and the Nazis".

136 papers were delivered by Professors and Graduate students from across the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the Baltics, Armenia and Finland.
12 students received SPSU awards for their photos on examples of tolerance - building as part of an exhibition supported by UNICEF.

The Consul-Generals of Finland, Sweden and the United States congratulated the sponsors of the conference.
Sergei Markov, representing the St. Peterburg Government, acknowledged receipt of the UNESCO Madanjit-Singh Tolerance Education Prize.

The Coordinator of the two day (22-23 April) programme, Sociology Professor Irina Pervova, announced that the proceedings would be published and invited participants to return in 2011.