26 January 2007
Remembrance and Beyond: United Nations Vienna Commemorates Victims of the Holocaust
Yad Vashem Exhibition "No Child's Play" on Display at UN Headquarters in Vienna
VIENNA, 26 January (UN Information Service) - At a ceremony organized today by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, representatives of the Jewish community, the Romanies and other groups such as the disabled, as well as ambassadors, senior officials, politicians, the diplomatic community, staff of the Vienna-based international organizations, secondary school students, civil society and non-governmental organizations, gathered at United Nations headquarters in Vienna to mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. A key part of the event was the inauguration of the Yad Vashem exhibition "No Child's Play", on display at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) until 2 February.
"The Holocaust was a unique and undeniable tragedy," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message. "The work of remembrance pays tribute to those who perished. But it also plays a vital role in our efforts to stem the tide of human cruelty. It keeps us vigilant for new outbreaks of anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. And it is an essential response to those misguided individuals who claim that the Holocaust never happened, or has been exaggerated," the Secretary-General added, and emphasized: "We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today's world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples must enjoy the protections and rights for which the United Nations stands". The Secretary-General's message was delivered by Nasra Hassan, Director, UNIS Vienna, who added that the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was mandated by the United Nations General Assembly, representing the Organization's 192 Member States.
Keynote speaker Oskar Deutsch, Vice President, Jewish Community Vienna, thanked the United Nations for marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz as the day that reintroduced the concept of hope for the future, and said: "It is in memory of those who had to live under the daily threat to their lives, that it is our obligation, our responsibility never to forget. Any possible signs of reigniting racism or anti-Semitism must be fought and eliminated at their roots. We must stop history from repeating itself".
Dr. Leon Zelman, Director, Jewish Welcome Service Vienna, drew attention to the importance of addressing the roots of intolerance: "In the beginning was the word: with words of hate and intolerance, people were marginalized. At the end, there was Auschwitz. Auschwitz stands for dehumanization and murder - for the largest graveyard of the world, a graveyard without graves." It was important to pass on the remembrance of the victims to the younger generation, and to call on the younger generation to build a world in which there was no place for anti-Semitism and racism, said Dr. Leon Zelman, and expressed appreciation to the United Nations for marking the International Day of Commemoration.
Representing the ethnic group of Romanies, Professor Rudolf Sarközi, Chairman of the Ethnic Group Council for Romanies at the Austrian Federal Chancellery, pointed out that half a million Romanies and Sinti had been murdered by the Nazis. "For years, children and young people have been participating in activities to commemorate the victims. Their appeals to politicians are always impressive and future-oriented. Also in today's ceremony, children are playing a major role. It is in their hands that we place our future". Professor Sarközi thanked the United Nations for organizing today's ceremony and drew attention to an exhibition on the Romanies that would be opened at UN headquarters in New York on 30 January.
The Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Communities in Austria, Paul Chaim Eisenberg, and Chief Cantor Shmuel Barzilai intoned the "El Male Rachamin" prayer in German and Hebrew, in commemoration of the Holocaust victims. The ceremony was enriched with musical performances by the Vienna Jewish Choir and the Jehuda Halevi Music School.
Representing the young generation, who will carry the torch of remembrance, and remind the world of the dangers posed by hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, 14 year old Alexander Sarközi, secondary school student and grandson of Professor Sarközi, said: "People were persecuted by the Nazis for their ethnicity, religion, skin colour, political belief, sexual orientation and other reasons - with millions of victims. I am glad that I did not have to live through this time, and hope that such things will never happen again. Every genocide is unacceptable".
The Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations (Vienna), Ambassador Dan Ashbel, said that the United Nations had provided an opportunity to confront those who tried to deny the Holocaust, by the General Assembly's decision to mark the International Day of Commemoration on 27 January.
Among the millions of innocent Jews and members of other minorities who were killed during the Holocaust were approximately 1.5 million children. Although they were among the most fragile and most vulnerable of the victims, in some ways, these children were also the strongest. Their survival instinct manifested itself in various games, toys and pictures that they created in an effort to cope with the horrors they faced. These and other artefacts are part of the exhibition "No Child's Play" of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, that was inaugurated during the ceremony. A version in German was especially produced for the UNIS event, and will be on display at the VIC from 26 January - 2 February. The exhibition can be viewed as part of a guided tour. Paintings of the series "Art against Oblivion" by the artist and Holocaust survivor Adolf Frankl, made available by the Art Forum Judenplatz, Vienna, were also on display.
At United Nations headquarters in New York, the second annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust will be held on 29 January, with a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall. Madame Simone Veil, President of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and herself a survivor of the Holocaust, will deliver the keynote address. The memorial event will also focus on the disabled community as one of the many victim groups of the Nazi regime and highlight the importance of education in promoting tolerance and ending discrimination against all minorities, particularly in light of the adoption by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006 of the landmark Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Prague, Czech Republic, is organizing a series of information programmes for school groups, conducted by Holocaust survivors, in cooperation with the Jewish Museum of Prague. The Secretary-General's message in Czech, Polish and Romanian languages can be accessed on the websites of the UNICs in Prague, Warsaw and Bucharest respectively, while UNIS Vienna has posted the German, Hungarian, Slovak and Slovene language versions on its website www.unis.unvienna.org.
On 1 November 2005, the General Assembly designated 27 January as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust conducted during the Second World War by the Nazi regime (resolution 60/7). On this day, the United Nations pays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and seeks to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, to raise awareness and to help prevent any repetition of the crime of genocide.
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