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UN Honors Holocaust Legacy with Week of Awareness Events
January 29, 2010
By Amy Lieberman
UNITED NATIONS – It’s been
65 years since Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the German Nazi’s
concentration camps, was liberated, but its legacy found new life this
week at the United Nations Secretariat, through a host of cultural and
educational events on the Holocaust.
The United Nations has honored
27 January as the International Day of Holocaust Commemoration since
2005, when the General Assembly decreed in November 2005 that the day
would stand in remembrance for Holocaust victims.
It’s estimated that six million
European Jews perished in perpetrated genocide, while several million
ethnic Poles, Soviet civilians and prisoners of war, disabled persons,
homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses also fell to the Nazi’s clutches.
As time progresses, fewer survivors
live to tell their horrific tales – yet their experiences, while unfathomable
to most, persevere through awareness activities like the ones the Untied
Nations hosted over the course of this past week.
Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka addressed this notion
at the 27 January musical ceremony, hosted in the General Assembly.
“We have much to learn from
their experiences and the painful and inspiring legacy they leave to
future generations,” Akasaka said. “And as the number of survivors
become smaller and smaller, their testimony becomes more and more precious.
“It is crucial to share their
legacy, to ensure that people everywhere understand the universal lessons
of the Holocaust, and to instill respect for diversity and human rights
in generations to come.”
Hundreds of spectators attended
the memorial ceremony and concert, at which the Nürnberg Philharmonic
Orchestra, the Bayreuth Zamir Choir and the Jerusalem Oratorio Chamber
Choir performed a wide variety of classical works.
The event, sponsored by the
Permanent Mission of Germany, was attended by Deputy Secretary-General
Asha-Rose Migiro, Byrganym Aitimova, the Vice-President of the General
Assembly, in addition to representatives from Israel and many other
This year’s theme of the
International Day of Holocaust Commemoration was the “legacy of survival,”
according to Eric Falt, director of the Outreach Division in the Department
of Public Information. Surviving the treacherous Nazi regime took many
forms, including some that remain largely unknown in modern day.
Falt spoke at a Wednesday afternoon
event that addressed one of the lesser-known stories of Holocaust survival
– the role Morocco played in protecting and honoring its Jewish citizens.
The North African, Muslim nation
resisted the growing, often mandated trend, of persecuting Jews leading
up to, and during, World War II. Educators and representatives of Morocco
alike elaborated on the country’s peaceful, tolerant rule during this
tumultuous time during the panel discussion.
Regarded as “a wound to the
collective memory, which we know is engraved in one of the most painful
chapters in the collective history of mankind,” according to Moroccan
King Mohammed VI, as he relayed in a message at the event, the Holocaust,
and the peaceful relationship between Jews and their home Arab nation
it forged, stands as an emblem for Middle Eastern relations.
Remembering the Holocaust “strongly
imposes ethical, moral and political standards which will, tomorrow,
be the true guarantors of this peace – based on equally-shared justice
and dignity – and for which most Palestinians and Israelis yearn,”
Survivors of the Holocaust,
and their ancestors, continue to find voice in the UN’s ongoing photography
and multimedia exhibition, “Generations: Survival and the Legacy of
Depicting blueprints of Auschwitz-Birkeneau
crematoriums and other buildings, the exhibition delivers the crucial
message that “the Holocaust did not just happen; it was planned,”
as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his prepared remarks.
The exhibit, which also relays
the personal accounts of survivors’ ancestors, and the need to keep
their stories alive, opened 25 January. Displayed in the UN Secretariat
main lobby, it runs through 1 March 2010.
Photo by: UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
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