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

 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust logoSilence descended on the standing room only audience of over 300 people at the Sydney Jewish museum as three survivors lit six candles as part of the ceremony to commemorate the memory of the over six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.  The event, organized by the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, was held at the  Sydney Jewish Museum to mark the UN International Day.

Olga Horak, herself a survivor of Auschwitz Birkenau, reflected on the effect of liberation and also on the important role survivors play in teaching the lessons of the Holocaust.  Learning from history was a core theme of the keynote speech by the Director of the Australian War Memorial and former Leader of the Opposition, Brendan Nelson, as he spoke on the long history of anti-Semitism.  In delivering the Secretary-General’s message for the Day, UNIC Director Christopher Woodthorpe also spoke of the United Nations’ Holocaust Outreach Programme and the important partnerships being forged both in Australia and around the world to help educate on the lessons on the Holocaust.

Director of UNIC Canberra delivering the message of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Director of UNIC Canberra delivering the message of the United Nations Secretary-General.

The evening concluded with a third generation descendant of a survivor, Robert Wayne, who gave a moving recollection of his visit to Auschwitz Birkenau and how it gave him the understanding of who he is and the importance of the legacy he has inherited.

Secretary-General’s Message for 2015
Seventy years ago today, allied forces liberated Auschwitz Birkenau, the German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp.

More than a million inmates, primarily Jews, were brutally and systematically killed in the place where the Nazis introduced the monstrous concept of “industrialized murder”.  Among the other victims were non-Jewish Poles, political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, disabled persons and Jehovah’s witnesses.

Unprecedented in human history, this mass killing was motivated by the perverse, race-based ideology of the Nazis, who sought to track down and kill every last Jew and any others they considered to be inferior.

Humankind united to overcome the Nazi menace.  Today, we are being tested again.  Minorities everywhere often face bigotry.  Sectarian tensions and other forms of intolerance are on the rise.  Anti-Semitic attacks continue, with Jews being killed solely because they are Jews.  Vulnerable communities around the world continue to bury their dead while living in fear of further violence.

The mission of the United Nations was shaped by the tragedy of the Second World War and the Holocaust.  We are committed to protect the vulnerable, promote fundamental human rights and uphold the freedom, dignity and worth of every person.

For the past decade, the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme has mobilized students and educators around the world to help us achieve these goals.  We are grateful to our many partners – including Holocaust survivors — who have contributed to this work, which spanned 42 countries in the past year alone.

The violence and bias we see every day are stark reminders of the distance still to travel in upholding human rights, preventing genocide and defending our common humanity.  We must redouble our efforts to eradicate the deep roots of hatred and intolerance.  People everywhere must unite to stop the cycles of discord and build a world of inclusion and mutual respect.

Ban Ki-moon

The Holocaust and the United Nations 10th Anniversary
Inspired by the theme “Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust Survivors”, the 2015 observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust coincides with the two milestone events: the 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s end and the founding of the United Nations. The Organization’s establishment seven decades ago in 1945 reflects how deeply it was shaped by the experience of the Holocaust. Both the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrine the principles of human rights for all peoples around the world. This year’s events include the annual ceremony, exhibits, a film screening, discussions and a special exhibit that recognizes the work of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme since its creation 10 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly.

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, in cooperation with the News and Media Division, has produced a seven-minute film that illustrates how the Programme has been carrying out its mandate for Holocaust education and remembrance to help prevent genocide over the past decade. The film includes a special message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and footage from the many Holocaust memorial ceremonies, panel discussions and educational events that have been held at New York Headquarters, as well as in the field in cooperation with the global network of United Nations information centres. Last year, there were more than 140 activities in 42 countries. The film also outlines the various educational products that have been produced in partnership with Holocaust institutions, educators and experts in Holocaust and genocide studies. It is available upon demand in all six United Nations official languages.

Lear more about the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme