13–14 December 2022: EHRI-PP General Partner Meeting at CegeSoma

On 13 and 14 December 2022, EHRI-PP's General Partner Meeting was held in CegeSoma's conference room. As this project is entering its final phase this was the ideal occasion to assess the work done and look ahead.

The EHRI-Preparatory Phase (EHRI-PP) project has laying the legal, technical, organisational and scientific foundations to turn EHRI into a permanent research infrastructure, an ERIC (European Research Infrastructure Consortium). As a result, EHRI's operations will no longer be funded on a project-to-project basis, as is currently the case, but in a structural way. EHRI-PP’s General Partner Meetings, which have been organised every six months throughout the project, are an opportunity to bring everyone involved in the project up to speed on the activities of the various work packages and to meet informally.

EHRI, a priority for the State Archives

The General Partner Meeting began with an opening speech by Karel Velle, Director General of the State Archives. He emphasised that for the State Archives, which has been an EHRI partner from the beginning through CegeSoma, EHRI is an important project that fits well with a number of its core tasks and contributes to anchoring the Holocaust in collective memory. Karel Velle expressed the hope that Belgium would be one of the founding members of the future EHRI-ERIC.

Building blocks of a permanent research infrastructure

The presentations by the different work package leaders revealed that the building blocks of the permanent research infrastructure have already been laid to a large extent. Work on the statutes, financial plan, research strategy, technology development and interaction with users is at an advanced stage. Work Package 2, for which the State Archives/CegeSoma is responsible, has drawn up the statutes of the future EHRI-ERIC. These statutes, which define the roles of the future EHRI-ERIC’s various bodies, have been approved by representatives of the different ministries of the countries committed to this preparatory phase, including Belgium. These statutes can now be finalised, just like the principles for financing the EHRI-ERIC as defined in the financial plan.

As for EHRI-ERIC’s user strategy, an advisory board of users that can serve as a sounding board for the further development of EHRI's services has been established. In terms of research, much attention has been paid to EHRI's thematic focus. The Holocaust remains central, but this does not exclude the possibility of including other Nazi crimes, anti-Semitism or other genocides into EHRI's research scope. Technical work has been carried out to ensure the future of services offered by EHRI. The basis of the data management plan has been established, but this will be adapted according to the further evolution of the infrastructure. EHRI's services will be linked to the European Social Science Cloud (EOSC).

National Nodes

EHRI-ERIC will be what is known as a "distributed" research infrastructure. In addition to the central seat of the ERIC, which will be located in the Netherlands, national nodes will also play an active role. Work is in progress to establish these national nodes in several countries. To this end, contact has been made with institutions and organisations that can play a role in these national nodes. As for Belgium, Kazerne Dossin and the State Archives/CegeSoma, the two Belgian partners in EHRI-PP, have organised a number of workshops to involve potentially interested organisations and institutions in the future Belgian National Node. The General Partner Meeting also provided an opportunity to share experiences in setting up national nodes in the various countries and exchange views on the websites that will provide each of these national nodes with the necessary visibility.

A follow-up project

The synthesis of all this preparatory work is reflected in the business and implementation plan, which lays the foundation for the next phase of EHRI: the implementation phase. To make this phase a reality, a new project will be submitted to the European Commission for funding. Part of the General Partner Meeting was devoted to the preparation of this project. This preparation also involved several new partner institutions from other countries that are interested in joining EHRI, such as Hungary, Sweden and Croatia. In addition to finalising EHRI-PP, which runs until 31 May 2023, work will continue on the EHRI-IP project in the coming months, for which the State Archives/CegeSoma and Kazerne Dossin remain the Belgian partners. The aim is to have EHRI up and running as a permanent research infrastructure by 2025, 80 years after the liberation of Auschwitz.

You can find out why this is important and how EHRI is planning to get there in the interview with Dr. Reto Speck, EHRI-PP's coordinator.