Remembrance and Beyond:
United Nations Vienna Commemorates Victims of the Holocaust 

VIENNA, 27 January (UN Information Service) -- UNIS Vienna marked the 3rd annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust with a special Remembrance ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in Vienna on Friday 25 January 2008 at 10 a.m.. Representatives of the Vienna Jewish community, the Romany community, Ambassadors, Permanent Representatives, other members of the diplomatic community, Austrian officials, staff of the Vienna-based international organizations, secondary school students, media, civil society and non-governmental organizations all responded well to the invitation, bringing the number of participants to around 150 persons.

UNIS Director Nasra Hassan moderated the ceremony and delivered excerpts from the Secretary-General's message (disseminated in English, German, Slovak and Hungarian).  Ms. Nasra Hassan - Director UNIS Vienna

The keynote was delivered by Mr Raimund Fastenbauer, Secretary-General of the Federal Association of the Jewish Religious Communities in Austria. In his speech he thanked the United Nations for creating the International Day and quoted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: " We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today's world. We must go beyond remembrance. Then we can avoid reoccurrence".

Representing the Romany community, which also suffered greatly during the Holocaust, Prof. Rudolf Sarközi, Chairman of the Ethnic Group Council for Romanies at the Austrian Federal Chancellery, offered insights into the fate of his people and reminded the audience that much still remains to be done to combat racism and intolerance, especially as regards the integration of Romanies in Europe as a whole. When the floor was opened for participants to share their thoughts on this Day, Ambassador Dan Ashbel, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN and Austria, made a brief intervention, calling upon all nations to not forget the heinous crime of the Holocaust.

Several exhibitions formed a central part of the ceremony. A reproduction of a postcard series by Holocaust victim Karl Schafranek (1890-1944) was especially created for this event by UNIS. The drawings were made at a labour camp in Eisenerz, Styria in 1940 to send to Mr Schafranek's daughter Lily. They were subsequently smuggled out of the camp and were on public display for the very first time on this occasion, thanks to Dr Martin Komjati, the artist's grand nephew. Mr Schafranek was murdered, together with his wife and daughter, in 1944 in the Belzec concentration camp in Poland. The Karl Schafranek postcard series will remain on display at the VIC from 25 January to 8 February and can be viewed as part of a guided tour. They are also available on the UNIS homepage /unis/en/schafranek_exhibition.html .

In addition, two paintings by Adolf Frankl, a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, were on display. Part of the cycle "Visions from the Inferno - Art against Oblivion", the paintings were made available by the gallery "Artforum Judenplatz". There were also two paintings by Dvora Barzilai from the Exhibition "Shalom Peace Pace".

 Remembrance Ceremony in Memory of the Victims of the HolocaustVisitors to the event were also able to receive information about the Austrian Service Abroad (Auslandsdienst/Gedenkdienst) which participated with an information stand. This is an alternative to Austria's compulsory national military service and its participants serve at major Holocaust institutions to provide assistance to Holocaust-related archives and museums. Since 1992 there have been about 150 Gedenkdienst interns, mostly young men in their 20s, working to study and preserve Holocaust history in lieu of military service back home.

UNIS Vienna also displayed information material on the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA) commemorative stamps on the theme "Remembrance and Beyond".

The ceremony was further enriched by a number of musical performances from Vienna Chief Cantor Shmuel Barzilai, the Vienna Jewish Choir, the Jehuda Halevi Music School, and the Romany Duo. Many participants expressed their appreciation at the well-struck balance between information, speeches, music, song and art during the commemorative event.

All participants (choir, music school, Romany Duo) received "Friends of the UN" bracelets as a token of appreciation; participants were treated to a tour of the Vienna International Centre at the conclusion of the ceremony.


* *** *