NEW YORK – Holocaust survivors, their families and delegates of their cause
flooded the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations on Friday, where the
international body commemorated the victims of Nazism with a day of remembrance
on the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
opened with a moment of silence followed by a taped message from Secretary-
General Ban Ki-moon, who promised that the UN, founded out of the principles of
humanity highlighted by the Holocaust, would “never again” let such an atrocity
“Let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care,” Ban
But the words of Republic of the Congo Ambassador Raymond Serge
Balé subtly challenged the reality of that promise. More than 5,600,000
Congolese have perished since 1998 in war-related deaths, according to an
International Rescue Committee report. Balé, who is vice president of the
General Assembly, and Sweden’s Signe Burgstaller were the only ambassadors from
countries other than Israel to speak at the event.
“The Holocaust was a
turning point in the history of mankind,” Balé said, calling on the body to
remember its founding principles.
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor also
spoke to the hall, reminding those in attendance that, from the very same venue
in which he stood, leaders of nation states have denied a moment in history that
included the documented, systematic killing of more than 6 million
“We live in a world filled with prejudice and violence. A
world in which anti-Semitism is sponsored, taught and spread by governments,
clerics and schoolteachers,” Prosor said. “Every year, from this very podium,
the Iranian president denies the Holocaust while threatening to carry out
At a breakfast before the ceremony held to mark the day,
B’nai B’rith International president Allan J. Jacobs told The Jerusalem Post
that denials would continue as more time passes and more witnesses pass
“We know that’s going to happen,” Jacobs said. “There is certainly a
dichotomy that exists. And we’ll continue to fight that in every venue we can,
including at the UN.”
Throughout the somber event, which included a
cantor’s prayer and a melancholy performance by a chamber ensemble, the loudest
moment came in the form of applause at the end of Prosor’s speech.
the hills of Jerusalem, to the camps of Treblinka, to the halls of the United
Nations, we say – as we have said for a hundred generations before us, and our
children will say long after us – Am Yisrael Chai. The people of Israel will live,” he said.
One man in
attendance, Bernhard Storch, 90, lost his entire family in Nazi concentration
camps as he fought in the Polish army, through the re-occupation of Warsaw in
He comes every year to honor them, he says, wearing the medals he
won fighting for their freedom.
“As President Obama has said, ‘We must
tell our children – but more than that, we must teach them. Because remembrance
without resolve is a hollow gesture,’” US Ambassador Susan Rice stated in a
media release. “We cannot bring back the victims of the Shoah. But we can
rededicate ourselves to expanding the reach of human decency, human dignity and
human rights – today and all days.”