Ban calls on world to fight Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and bigotry

27 January 2009

Over six decades after 6 million Jews, nearly a third of the total, and countless other minorities were butchered in the Nazi German Holocaust, it is more vital than ever to learn from the tragedy to prevent further atrocities, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today.

“We must continue to examine why the world failed to prevent the Holocaust and other atrocities since. That way, we will be better armed to defeat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance,” he said in a message marking the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

“We must continue to teach our children the lessons of history's darkest chapters. That will help them do a better job than their elders in building a world of peaceful coexistence. We must combat Holocaust denial, and speak out in the face of bigotry and hatred,” he added in the message, read at a ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.

Mr. Ban noted that new initiatives in Holocaust remembrance and education have given an authentic basis for hope, which is the theme of this year’s observance, the fourth since the General Assembly instituted the annual commemoration.

“But we can and must do more if we are to make that hope a reality,” he stressed. “We must uphold the standards and laws that the United Nations has put in place to protect people and fight impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Our world continues to be plagued by ruthless violence, utter disregard for human rights, and the targeting of people solely for who they are.”

As well as the ceremony, chaired by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka, the UN marked the occasion with panel discussions and other events, including an initiative by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) called the “Footprints of Hope,” which brings the global network of the UN Information Centres together with local schools to further youngsters’ understanding of the Holocaust and their respect for human rights through documentary and film resources.

A new exhibit has also opened in the Visitors’ Lobby about the Nazi regime called “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race.”

General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto echoed Mr. Ban’s call to the world to learn the lesson of the Holocaust. “We need to move beyond our statements of grief and memory, however powerfully felt, and work to develop new ways of thinking about the Holocaust, about genocide, about the apparently bottomless capacity for peoples’ cruelty to each other,” he said in a message.

“That capacity is shared by all of us. At their core, all genocides, all holocausts, start with the alienation, demonization and the marginalization of the “Other” – those citizens of another religion, another race, ethnicity, another set of political ideas, or another sexual orientation than our own,” he added, calling for a struggle against intolerance and for relationships that replace “us and them” with “we and ours.”


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