Remembering the victims of the Holocaust at the United Nations in Vienna

January 27 th marks the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust - the day, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated in 1945.

The United Nations in Vienna remembered the victims of the Holocaust with a commemorative ceremony and the opening of the poster exhibition "Some Were Neighbours: Choice, Human Behaviour & the Holocaust" at the Vienna International Centre on 27 January 2020, attended by more than 200 UN staff members and representatives from the Permanent Missions to the UN and the Jewish community in Vienna

At the ceremony, the Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN in Vienna, Ambassador Mordechai Denis Paul Rodgold, said: "In order to fight antisemitism and to build a better future we need to remember history and continue to tell the story." Honorary Guest and Minister of Economy and Industry of Israel, Eli Cohen, added that: "It is crucial not to give in to indifference." The Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), Dennis Thatchaichawalit, highlighted the importance of actions from all of us to fight racism and other forms of discrimination. He then read the message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for the day. The ceremony was accompanied by a moving musical performance by the singer Shira Karmon and the guitarist Antonis Vounelakos and included a prayer by Chief Cantor Shmuel Barzilai.

The first screening of 2020 of the monthly Ciné-ONU Vienna film series, run by the UN Information Service in Vienna at the local arthouse cinema Topkino, was also dedicated to the International Day. The film that was chosen, "Bureau 06", was directed by the Israeli filmmaker Yoav Halevy. The film tells the unique personal and shared stories of a team of police officers involved in investigating the case of the SS-officer Adolf Eichmann. Among them is the story of Avner Less, Adolf Eichmann's personal interrogator.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Martin Nesirky, Director of UNIS Vienna, with panellists including the film director Yoav Halevy himself, Sigall Horovitz, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Béla Rásky, Managing Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies and Oliver Scheiber, judge and Head of the District Court of Meidling, Vienna.

Asked about what prompted the director to make the film, Halevy said: "I was born two years after the Eichmann trial, but the Holocaust is part of my life. My grandparents came from Europe and nobody talked about it […] I didn't know about Bureau 06 […] everybody knows about the [Eichmann] trial, but nobody knows about Bureau 06."

Horovitz explained how the Eichmann trial has influenced and changed modern international law. In many ways the trial established legal precedents; for the first time, universal jurisdiction was applied and the terms genocide and crime against humanity were defined. Béla Rásky spoke about the role of Simon Wiesenthal to bring the Nazi criminals to court and the importance of testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Oliver Scheiber commented that present-day judges in Austria are receiving training in investigating Nazi-era crimes by interdisciplinary teams.

More than 200 people attended the film screening.