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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

30th January 2014

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance at the Vatican

Prime Minister David Cameron hosts event for survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2014).

The UK is one of 31 members of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental body born in 1998 to expand Holocaust education worldwide, and to secure political and social leaders’ support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance and research both nationally and internationally. In February this year we will take over the rotating Chairmanship of the organisation.

The UK was one of the leading countries in the establishment of the IHRA, and this week – the week of the annual Holocaust Memorial Day – has seen British leaders remembering the Shoah. The Prime Minister has also launched a high level Holocaust Commission to ensure Britain has a permanent memorial to the Holocaust and educational resources for future generations. As Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said at the launch, the Commission will help ensure “that we in Britain learn the lessons and do our utmost to prevent the reoccurrence of such atrocities against any group anywhere in the world”.

The UK Envoy for Post Holocaust Issues, Sir Andrew Burns, will be the next IHRA Chair, and is this week visiting the Holy See alongside the current Canadian Chair in Office, Dr Mario Silva. Between them, they are looking forward to exploring the role of the Holy See and the wider Catholic Church in Holocaust remembrance and education.

This is a propitious time for such a visit. In May, Pope Francis will be in Jerusalem where he will visit the Shoah memorial at Yad Vashem. The Pope has already said how keen he is to see the extensive Vatican archives relating to World War II opened to scholars as soon as the relevant 16 million documents have been catalogued, something that may happen within the next two years. With one of the most extensive educational networks across the world, the Church also has an unmatched resource – from primary to post-Doctorate level – that could play a hugely important part in improving global understanding of the Holocaust.

Sadly, modern examples of intolerance, religious and ethnic hatred, and violence against “the other” teach us that we can never be complacent about man’s capacity to injure man. Holocaust remembrance plays an essential role in helping us both understand and overcome this, and I am looking forward to positive conversations with the Holy See this week.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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