We pledge never to forget: Commemorative Ceremony and film screenings to recognize the extraordinary courage of the victims and survivors of the Holocaust

In 2024, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on 27 January marks 79 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. This year, the United Nations is paying tribute to the bravery of all those who stood up to the Nazis, despite the grave risks.

VIENNA, 29 January 2024 - More than 200 UN staff members and representatives of Permanent Missions to the United Nations (Vienna) and the Jewish community in Austria gathered in the Rotunda of the Vienna International Centre (VIC) to participate in a commemorative ceremony, marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
After the moving performance of the song, “Ha’ayara Bo’eret (Es brennt)” which translated from Hebrew, means “The Town is Burning”, by singer Mika Erlich and pianist Dror Binder, a memorial candle was lit and the Chief Cantor of the Vienna main Synagogue recited the Jewish prayer of “El Maleh Rachamim” to mourn the victims of the Holocaust.

During the event, Dennis Thatchaichawalit, Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV), delivered the Secretary-General's message to mark this important day. In their remarks, Ambassador David Roet, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations (Vienna), and Ambassador Lindsay Skoll, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations (Vienna), spoke about the importance of learning from the past and battling the rising antisemitism and hatred around the world.

The event, moderated by the Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, Martin Nesirky, concluded with the testimony of Avraham Roet, a Holocaust survivor, and a musical performance. After the ceremony, the audience was invited to visit the exhibition “Spots of Light to be a women in the Holocaust” and to join a film screening of the documentary “The Last Survivors” in the UNIS Vienna cinema room. 


Later in the evening, the same documentary was shown at the local arthouse cinema Top Kino as part of UNIS Vienna’s film series Ciné-ONU Vienna. Filmed by director Arthur Cary in 2019, the film depicts the stories of some of the last remaining Holocaust survivors living in the UK and follows them over the course of a year as they embark upon personal and profound journeys.

After the screening, Holocaust survivor Avraham Roet, his granddaughter, Tal, and Regina Polak, Professor of Practical Theology at the University of Vienna and a researcher on interfaith dialogue, antisemitism, and racism joined a discussion, moderated by UNIS Director Martin Nesirky.    

Mr. Roet shared his personal story with the audience: born in Holland in 1928, growing up as a child in Amsterdam, he attended Anne Frank’s parallel class and was hidden and saved by a poor Catholic farmer family in Holland. Most of his family were murdered in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Sobibor.

When discussing the role of the second and third generation of Holocaust survivors, Polak pointed out the challenging aspect of Holocaust education among youngsters: “It’s not just an issue of knowing facts; it’s an issue of a comprehensive and deeper understanding.” Polak also emphasized that the circumstances that led to the Holocaust did not vanish after 1945, and she underscored the urgent need to learn from history.

“I came here for one reason,” Roet passionately concluded, “and that is - you have to remember.” In the face of such a profound, personal lesson in human history with more than six million victims, remembering seems to be the least that later generations can do. “Do not forget us, remember us,” Roet said.

The ceremony and the film screenings were organized by the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN (Vienna) and the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, with the support of the United Nations Outreach Programme on the Holocaust and in cooperation with the United Kingdom Mission to the UN (Vienna) and the support of the Center for Israel Studies Vienna. 

Watch a video of the ceremony below and see the photos here