Press Releases

    24 January 2005

    United Nations Commemorates 60th Anniversary of Liberation of Nazi Death Camps in Europe

    United Nations Vienna Holds Solemn Ceremony to Mark United Nations General Assembly Special Session in New York

    VIENNA, 24 January (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations (Vienna) today held a solemn ceremony to mark the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) that is currently taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

    In his statement to the Special Session in New York today, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:  “The date for this session was chosen to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. But, as you know, there were many other camps, which fell one by one to the allied forces in the winter and spring of 1945.  Only gradually did the world come to know the full dimensions of the evil that those camps contained. The discovery was fresh in the minds of the delegates at San Francisco, when this Organization was founded. The United Nations must never forget that it was created as a response to the evil of Nazism, or that the horror of the Holocaust helped to shape its mission. That response is enshrined in our Charter, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

    In Vienna, the ceremony began with a performance by the Vienna International Centre Choir. Members of the diplomatic community, United Nations staff, non-governmental organizations, civil society and the media came together to hear statements by, among others, the four “Allied Powers” who had liberated the camps. The Permanent Representatives of France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the United Nations (Vienna), and a representative of the United States Permanent Mission spoke on the occasion.

    This was followed by statements from the Permanent Representatives of Germany and Poland to the United Nations (Vienna) and the Resident Representative of Israel to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. The Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations (Vienna) spoke as representative of the host country. A representative of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia also spoke.

    All the speakers spoke of the need to keep the memory of the Nazi death camps alive, and remain constantly vigilant to ensure that intolerance and hatred do not become a part of the future.

    The support of a majority of Member States is needed to convene a Special Session: 150 Member States supported the call for today’s session. In the 60 years since the founding of the UN, only 27 Special Sessions have been held. In conjunction with UNGASS, two exhibits in the public lobby of the Headquarters building in New York will be opened today by Mr. Annan and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, Silvan Shalom. Entitled “Auschwitz -- the Depth of the Abyss”, the exhibit is a collection of photographs and paintings from the Auschwitz and Majdanek camps. A second exhibit entitled “Afterwards, it’s just a part of you”, consists of photographs by youth groups who visited what remains of the death camps.

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