During a solemn ceremony at United Nations headquarters this evening, six survivors of the Holocaust raised their voices so that the 6 million people who did not make it through the horrors of that era were not forgotten.
The event, which featured candles, song and readings by both young and old, was part of a week-long series of events leading up to the the 27 of January observance of the International Day of Commemoration of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. That date was chosen by the 191-member General Assembly for the annual remembrance because it was then, in 1945, that the Auschwitz concentration camp fell to Allied Forces.
About 200 survivors, their family and friends as well as UN staff members gathered for the 45-minute ceremony that was opened by Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information. Mr. Tharoor said the UN was an “entirely appropriate” location for a ceremony marking the liberation of Auschwitz and the UN would not forget the 6 million people whom lost their lives.
The Acting President of the General Assembly, Brazilian Ambassador Ronald Mota Sardenberg, spoke on behalf of Assembly President Jan Eliasson, and said the vigil at UN Headquarters symbolized “the universal condemnation of the barbarous crime of genocide committed by the Nazi regime.”
On 1 November 2005, the General Assembly rejected “any denial of the Holocaust as an historic event, either in full or part,” Mr. Sardenberg noted, referring to the adoption without a vote of General Assembly resolution 60/7 on “Holocaust Remembrance.”
Each of the six Holocaust survivors read an excerpt from the UN Charter or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a family member stood beside and held a single candle representing 1 million Holocaust victims.
“This is a muted triumph right now,” said Roman Kent, a survivor of the Auschwitz and Flossenberg concentration camps who is originally from Poland, after the 45-minute ceremony. “It's 60 years too late. But it's very important to have this now at UN Headquarters.”
Mr. Kent's 14-year granddaughter, Eryn Avjian, who held the candle as he read from the preamble to the UN Charter, said the vigil helped everyone remember what people went through during the Holocaust. “I try to keep the knowledge of that period for myself and my peers,” said the high school student.
The other Holocaust survivors who participated in the vigil were Lyubov Abramovich, Johanna Liebman, David Mermelstein, Jack Polak, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier.
Jennifer Williams, a student at the UN International School, read an excerpt from the book “The Diary of Anne Frank” and Cantor Joseph Malovany of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue recited prayers and sang “Moishelle Main Fraint” (Moses, My Friend) in Yiddish.
The programme tomorrow will begin with a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It will also feature the first lecture in a proposed annual series on the theme “Remembrance and Beyond” by Professor Yehuda Bauer, Advisor to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
The commemoration will be webcast live at: www.un.org/webcast/index.asp.