In 1979, Jimmy Carter’s President’s Commission on the Holocaust recommended 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 the Committee on Conscience.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in 1993. Shortly thereafter, Leo Melamed, whose family had fled from Nazism in Poland, formally proposed the establishment of the Committee on Conscience as a standing committee of the Council. The Council unanimously approved his proposal in 1995.
The Committee on Conscience aims to alert the national conscience, influence policy makers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to stop acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity. Its work is carried out today by the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.
Committee on Conscience Mandate
The Committee on Conscience 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. To accomplish this, the Committee uses a wide range of actions, including public programs and activities, temporary exhibitions, and public or private communications with policy makers.
The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was signed by the United States in 1988, defines genocide as any of a number of acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group:
- Killing members of the group;
- Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Crimes against humanity include a wide range of acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.
Tom A. Bernstein*
R. Nicholas Burns
Norman L. Eisen*
Stuart E. Eizenstat
Todd A. Fisher
Allan M. Holt*
Priscilla L. Kersten*
Stuart A. Levey*
Deborah E. Lipstadt*
Ruth B. Mandel
David M. Marchick*
John E. McLaughlin
Michael H. Posner*
Horacio D. Rozanski
Elliot J. Schrage*
Cindy Simon Skjodt*
Jeremy M. Weinstein*
Daniel G. Weiss*
Bradley D. Wine
*Member, United States Holocaust Memorial Council