Evil of Holocaust still threatens world, Annan says ahead of special UN Assembly session
The evil that killed 6 million Jews and others in the Nazi death camps 60 years ago still threatens the world, and the global community must ensure that such horror never occurs again, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today ahead of next week's special session of the General Assembly to commemorate the camps' liberation.
Monday's meeting will have profound significance for the United Nations for several reasons, "first because the founding of this organization was a direct response to the Holocaust," he told a news briefing. "Our charter and the words 'untold sorrow' were written as the world was learning the full horror of the death camps.
"Second, it is essential for all of us to remember, reflect on and learn from what happened 60 years ago. The evil that destroyed the 6 million Jews and others in those camps is one that still threatens all of us today. It is not something we can consign to the distant past and forget about it.
"Every generation must be on its guard to make sure that such a thing never happens again," he added, stressing the need for succeeding generations to carry forward the work of remembrance death camp survivors dwindle in number.
The special session marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps is the first event of its kind that the General Assembly has ever held and has so far received support from 138 of its 191 Members States. The resolution calling for it was sponsored by Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Russia, the United States and the European Union.
Mr. Annan said the "solemn and highly significant occasion" should be seen as "an expression of our commitment" to build a United Nations that can respond quickly and effectively to genocide and other serious violations of human rights.
"Of course, that work is still far from complete," he added.
Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, stressed that he was acting as a representative not just of Israel or the Jewish people but also of the 6 million Jews and the many others who were "slaughtered in the Holocaust and the horrible dark days" of World War II.
"We truly believe that Monday will be a very historic and solemn occasion and we believe it is a very important day not just for Israel, not just for the Jewish people, but also for the United Nations and for the world," he added.
He expressed the hope that it would "make sure that people remember and never forget and it will make sure that those horrible atrocities never ever happen again anywhere in the world."
The General Assembly President, Foreign Minister Jean Ping of Gabon, stressed that this is the first time the body is holding a commemorative special session. "I think that it will give us an opportunity. It is because it's our duty to remember and to say it loudly, 'Never Again!'" he said.
"I hope also that it will give us the opportunity to renew our commitment to the objectives and the principles of the United Nations Charter and also to renew our commitment to human rights in general."
In conjunction with the session, two exhibits are being held at UN Headquarters in New York. One is called "Auschwitz - the depth of the Abyss," and is a collection of photographs and paintings from the Auschwitz and Majdanek camps.
The other, called "Afterwards, it's just a part of you," is an exhibit of photographs taken by youth groups who have visited what remains of the death camps. It also includes their written recollection of their visits and talks with survivors.
Video of press remarks [25mins]