The Holocaust demonstrated that human beings are capable of great cruelty, but also of great courage and strength in the face of evil, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today at the opening of a new United Nations exhibit focusing on the courageous men and women who helped rescue Jews during World War II.
“Today, we honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and those who protected and saved lives,” Mr. Ban said in a message, delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka.
The two-part exhibit, entitled “The Holocaust – Stories of Rescue,” tells the story of individuals who stood up to rescue Jews “when so many others turned a blind eye or collaborated in the murder of Jews and other minorities,” stated Mr. Ban.
One segment, “BESA – A Code of Honour,” features an account of Muslim Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Their courageous actions were grounded in Besa, a code of honour, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country.
“The photographs are profoundly moving portraits of people who, through their conscience and courage, without regard for religious differences, risked their lives to shelter their Jewish neighbours, friends and strangers,” said the Secretary-General.
The other segment, “Carl Lutz and the Legendary Glass House in Budapest,” highlights the work of the Swiss diplomat who issued certificates of emigration to tens of thousands of Jews, thus saving many of them from near-certain extinction.
Mr. Ban noted that the opening of the exhibit comes as the UN commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a campaign to bring the concept of “Dignity and Justice for All” to people everywhere.
“The campaign reminds us that in a world still reeling from the horrors of the Holocaust, the Universal Declaration was the first global statement of what many now take for granted: the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings.”
On display at UN Headquarters in New York through 2 March, the exhibit is presented as part of a week-long series of activities marking the third annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.