The Museum’s work on genocide and related crimes against humanity is conducted by the Center for the Prevention of Genocide and guided by the Committee on Conscience, a standing committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. Michael Chertoff, former US Secretary of Homeland Security, currently chairs the Committee.
When the President’s Commission on the Holocaust recommended in 1979 the creation of a living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, it observed that no issue “was as perplexing or as urgent as the need to insure that such a totally inhuman assault as the Holocaust—or any partial version thereof—never recurs.” To address that need, the Commission recommended the creation of a Committee on Conscience.
The Museum opened in 1993 and shortly thereafter, Leo Melamed, whose family had fled from Nazism in Poland, formally proposed the establishment of the Committee on Conscience to his fellow members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. His proposal received unanimous approval in 1995. The Committee’s mandate is to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity.
In carrying out the Committee’s mandate, the Center for the Prevention of Genocide undertakes a wide range of actions to make genocide prevention a national and international priority by increasing the public’s understanding of how and why genocide and mass atrocities happen, inspiring people to care, and galvanizing policy makers to create the tools and structures needed to avert the next crisis. The Center for the Prevention of Genocide works on three distinct fronts: bolstering the will of decision makers to prevent and respond to genocide and mass atrocities, strengthening the movement of organizations and experts with similar concerns, and shaping public attitudes so that citizens demand action to prevent genocide.
For more information about the Center for the Prevention of Genocide and the Committee on Conscience, visit the Museum’s online Press Room.