UNGA vows to combat Holocaust denial on Wannsee Conference anniversary

The resolution is only the second that Israel brought forwards and passed since its establishment. 

 Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks at the United Nations General Assembly as it discussed a resolution denouncing Holocaust denial, on January 20, 2022. (photo credit: COURTESY UN)
Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks at the United Nations General Assembly as it discussed a resolution denouncing Holocaust denial, on January 20, 2022.
(photo credit: COURTESY UN)

The United Nations General Assembly vowed to combat Holocaust denial when it approved by consensus a resolution that defined the phenomenon as antisemitism and provided tools to preserve the memory of the Nazi’s six million Jewish victims.

“Holocaust denial has spread like a cancer,” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told the plenum on Thursday as he introduced the Israeli resolution, which was cosponsored by Germany.

The denial “has spread under our watch. It has spread because people have chosen to be irresponsible, to avoid accountability,” he explained.

“Friends, only 54% of the world’s population has heard of the Holocaust, with one third of them skeptical of the facts,” Erdan said.

The resolution’s approval marked only the second time in the country’s history that the UNGA has approved an Israeli-sponsored text, according to Erdan’s office.

The Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks to the United Nations Security Council. (credit: UNITED NATIONS)The Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks to the United Nations Security Council. (credit: UNITED NATIONS)

There were 114 signatories to the text, which was passed on the 80th anniversary of the infamous Wannsee Conference, where the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was discussed and coordinated by officials of Nazi Germany.

“No day is more fitting for the UNGA to show its unanimous support for such an apt resolution,” Erdan stated. “Our fight to ensure the memory of the victims whose fates were sealed 80 years ago, is a fight that must be fought as a united body.”

He said that the resolution was important to him as the representative of the Jewish state but also as the grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“This moment is our pledge” to the six million killed in the Holocaust that its atrocities “will never be forgotten and the facts will no longer be distorted,” Erdan stated.

“We now live in an era in which fiction is becoming fact and the Holocaust is becoming a distant memory. And as this happens, following the greatest crime in human history, now comes the greatest cover-up in human history,” he said.

The ambassador alluded to Iran’s historical distortions of the Holocaust when he stated that, “nations with seats in this hall openly deny the Holocaust, casting doubt on its occurrence and praising its perpetrators.”

Erdan did not mention Iran by name, but his comments made it clear that he had referenced the Islamic Republic.

“Some have even run cartoon contests seeking the best cartoon mocking the Holocaust. In fact, those that most blatantly deny that Jews suffered a genocide are the ones now threatening Jews with another genocide!” Erdan said.

IRAN WAS the only country in the plenum to openly oppose the motion by delivering a speech against it. Tehran, however, has limited powers to operate at the UNGA, having lost its voting rights due to a failure to pay its dues.

Erdan also took social media companies to task for not doing enough to eradicate Holocaust denial from their platforms. “Social media giants can no longer remain complacent to the hate spread on their platforms!” Erdan exclaimed.

Germany’s Ambassador Antje Leendertse said the rise of Holocaust denial on the Internet was particularly disturbing, which was why the resolution calls on social media companies “to take active measures against this disturbing trend.”

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield recalled that the resolution was passed just days after four Jews escaped a hostage situation at a Texas synagogue on January 15.

“As I was briefed on the attack and watched the news unfold, it was difficult not to recall the tragic loss of 11 lives in the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh just a few years ago,” she recalled.

“We know that a pernicious rising tide of antisemitism has led to deadly violence in the US and elsewhere around the globe,” she said. “We must root out antisemitic hatred and the false narratives that go hand in hand – in our communities, in our countries and in our institutions.”

Other countries that spoke in support of the resolution included Egypt, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Poland.

Issues have been tense between Warsaw and Jerusalem over issues relating to the Holocaust. Israel’s ambassador to Poland is not presently stationed there nor is Poland’s ambassador in Israel.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid publicly thanked Poland for its vocal support of the resolution.

“I appreciate the Polish government’s decision to support today’s U.N. resolution on combating Holocaust denial around the world. This is the right thing to do,” Lapid tweeted.

The resolution defined Holocaust denial as “discourse and propaganda that deny the historical reality and the extent of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis and their accomplices during the Second World War, known as the Holocaust or Shoah.

“Holocaust denial refers specifically to any attempt to claim that the Holocaust did not take place, and may include publicly denying or calling into doubt the use of principal mechanisms of destruction (such as gas chambers, mass shooting, starvation, and torture) or the intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people,” the resolution continued.

“Holocaust denial in its various forms is an expression of antisemitism,” it said.

THE RESOLUTION issued had six directives.

1. “Rejects and condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part;

2. Urges all Member States to reject without any reservation any denial or distortion of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to this end;

3. Commends those Member States which have actively engaged in preserving those sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labor camps, killing sites and prisons during the Holocaust, as well as similar places operated by Nazi-allied regimes, their accomplices or auxiliaries;

4. Urges Member States to develop educational programs that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide, and in this context commends the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance;

5. Urges Member States and social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion by means of information and communications technologies and to facilitate reporting of such content;

6. Requests the United Nations outreach program on the Holocaust as well as all relevant United Nations specialized agencies to continue to develop and implement programs aimed at countering Holocaust denial and distortion, and to advance measures to mobilize civil society, and invites all relevant stakeholders, including States, parliaments, the private sector and academia to educate their societies truthfully about the facts of the Holocaust and the importance of its lessons as a countermeasure against Holocaust denial and distortion, in order to prevent future acts of genocide.”