27 January 2006

The Secretary-General

Message for the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

27 January 2006

Today, for the first time, the United Nations marks what will, from now on, be an annual observance: the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

There can be no reversing the unique tragedy of the Holocaust.  It must be remembered, with shame and horror, for as long as human memory continues.

Only by remembering can we pay fitting tribute to the victims.  Millions of innocent Jews and members of other minorities were murdered in the most barbarous ways imaginable.  We must never forget those men, women and children, or their agony.

Remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated.  Holocaust denial is the work of bigots.  We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made.

Remembering is also a safeguard for the future.  The abyss reached in the Nazi death camps started with hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism.  Recalling these origins can remind us to be ever on the lookout for warning signs.

As the Holocaust recedes in time, and as the number of survivors dwindles, it falls to us - the current generation -- to carry the torch of remembrance and uphold the cause of human dignity.

The United Nations was founded as a reaction to the horrors of the Second World War.  Even so, the international community has too often failed to stand up to mass atrocities.  In recent years, we have taken important steps to improve on that record, such as establishing the International Criminal Court and agreeing on the collective responsibility to protect.

On this International Day of Commemoration, the theme of our observance is "remembrance and beyond".  In that spirit, let us pledge ourselves to even greater efforts to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity.

* *** *