United Nations staff, members of the diplomatic community and hundreds of school children on Friday gathered in a solemn candle lighting ceremony to mark the first ever International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
|Kenyan school children learn about the Holocaust|
In a speech read by UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on the world never to forget:
“Only by remembering can we pay fitting tribute to the victims. Millions of innocent Jews and members of other minorities were murdered in the most barbarous ways imaginable. We must never forget those men, women and children, or their agony,” Mr. Annan said. Remembering, he added was a rebuke to the “false claims” of “bigots” who deny the Holocaust.
It was on 27 January, 61 years ago that the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Soviet Army. Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi concentration camps, a place where more than 1.2 million people, the majority of them Jewish, were deliberately put to death. “Remembering is also a safeguard for the future,” Mr. Annan said.
The Israeli and German ambassadors also addressed the remembrance ceremony in the main auditorium of the UN headquarters in Africa. Afterwards, schoolchildren attending a session of the Model United Nations were shown an exhibition of Holocaust photographs provided by the Israeli embassy.
The Israeli Ambassador, Mr. Emanuel Seri, recalled that the UN General Assembly resolution of 1 November 2005 adopting 27 January as a day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust had been sponsored by Israel with the backing of over 100 countries. “We stand today close to the brink of the moment when the Holocaust will cease to be in memory and will become history,” he said. “When the next generation might not be able to hear the truth from those who lived, or to see the silent witness of a number on a bare arm. Keeping the chain of memory alive is urgent today also, because anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe and elsewhere.”
|The Israeli ambassdor addressing the commemoration |
The German Ambassador, Mr. Bernd Braun, said the responsibility borne by Germany compelled it to do everything in its power to keep alive the memory of the horrific crimes of National Socialism alive for subsequent generations.
“The United Nations is uniquely suited to and legitimized for genocide prevention,” he said. “After all, no other organization has so much experience with conflict in the protection of human rights. Further strengthening the world organization in this field is thus one of the priorities of my government. Our history makes this incumbent on us. Germany, in close cooperation with its friends and partners in Europe, was and is deeply committed to the strengthening of the United Nations, which is at the centre of the global struggle for human rights and human dignity. Remembering the Holocaust is part of the struggle.”
Recalling that the United Nations was born out of the embers of World War II, Mrs. Tibaijuka said that in commemorating the millions deliberately murdered in death camps like Auschwitz, “we must use this occasion to pledge anew our commitment, as UN staff members, to uphold the principles of the Charter of the United Nations that are founded in freedom, democracy, and equal rights for all.”