In solemn session UN marks 65th anniversary of end of Second World War
“It is fitting, today, that we commemorate the war’s end at a moment when nations are gathered to advance the cause of peace,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a commemorative special session of the General Assembly, citing the five-yearly review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) currently under way.
“The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is also a document of hope, a vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world,” he said. “Thank you for helping us to remember the past, so that we may better shape our future.”
Mr. Ban, who last month praised the agreement by Russia and the United States to reduce their nuclear arsenals, told reporters afterwards that progress was being made along the road to a nuclear weapons-free future. “I am confident that we will continue to do so, if only because we must,” he said.
In his address to the Assembly, he recited a litany of major battles, horrors and terrible costs of the war. “The names and places resonate, despite the passing of many years – Stalingrad and Kursk, Auschwitz and Dachau (death camps), D-Day and the final battle for Berlin,” he said.
“Its cost was beyond calculation, beyond comprehension ¬– 40 million civilians dead, 20 million soldiers, nearly half of those in the Soviet Union alone. Those were years of unspeakable atrocities, of lost faith and lost humanity. Those years saw extraordinary bravery, as well. World War II was one of the most epic struggles for freedom and liberation in history. And in the end, idealism had its triumph, too.”
He stressed that the end of the war coincided with the San Francisco conference that established the UN “an organization founded on that most human of hopes, an end to the ‘scourge of war’.”
Acting Assembly President Abdalmahmoud Mohamad, Ambassador of Sudan, said the commemoration was a wake-up call to intensify efforts to settle all disputes by peaceful means.
“As we celebrate the end of one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, we also reflect on the immeasurable human cost of war,” he added. “Collectively, and with the needed political will, we can reinforce international peace and security around the globe, and ensure a better future for the coming generations…
“The international community has strived to achieve progress towards reconciliation, cooperation and the promotion of democratic values, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We must renew this commitment. We must continue our path towards a world that reigns with peace, security and prosperity for all. Today’s meeting is an excellent opportunity to renew our resolve to achieve this goal.”
Although the Second World War continued in Asia until August 1945 beyond May’s end of fighting in Europe, the General Assembly unanimously resolved in March to hold a special solemn meeting in the second week of May “in commemoration of all victims of the war.”