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

In his remarks prefacing the message of the Secretary-General, UNIC Director, Christopher Woodthorpe, focused on the issue of propaganda and the need for all to be vigilant in this age of immediate and mass communications.  To counter propaganda, he noted, “it is essential we work to uphold independent rule of law and a free press, to hold leaders to account and establish a truthful record of the facts” he went on to stress the importance of maintaining respect for human rights and placing education at the core of efforts to combat antisemitism and all forms of discrimination.

Mr. Julian Leeser, MP, in his keynote speech, agreed that education was fundamental in learning the lessons of the past, but that equally it was as important that we recognize the Righteous among Nations, those that helped, at great risk to themselves, thousands of Jews and others targeted by the Nazis to escape.  He recounted his own family history and how his forbears had been helped to escape just prior to the outbreak of war.   With bigotry and racism on the rise, having the courage to act and speak out was as important now as it had ever been.  Recognizing that soon there would no longer be survivors to recount their memories, he stressed the importance of keeping their experiences real as vital to humanity continuing to learn the lesson of the Holocaust.

Posthumous recognition of two of the Righteous among Nations, Ids and Elizabeth Joustra, was then made by the Ambassador of Israel with a presentation made to their adopted son, who they had secretly raised in Amsterdam during the war, and their grandson.  It was fitting that the ceremony concluded with the grandson’s words and the words of another third generation descendant, Rachel Flitman who recounted how her generation were nurturing the legacy of memory through their own shared experiences of their parents and grandparents.