25/01/2005
Press Release
SG/SM/9689


‘We must face up to what happened in the camps’, Secretary-General says

 

at opening of Auschwitz exhibit


Following is the text of remarks by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the opening of the exhibition “Auschwitz -- The Depth of the Abyss” to commemorate the liberation of the Nazi death camps, in New York on 24 January:


This has been an important day for the United Nations.  For the first time, the General Assembly devoted a session to the Holocaust.  For the first time, the Assembly heard a first-hand account from a Holocaust survivor.


We now come together to open an exhibition that tells the story of the Holocaust in pictures.  They are another first for the United Nations, and they tell the story in a way that no words could.  I thank Yad Vashem and all others who helped bring the images to us.


The drawings by Zinovii Tolkatchev, a Russian soldier and artist who was present at the liberation of Majdanek -- a haunting, troubled, sombre account, as seen through the conscience of one witness.


The Auschwitz Album -- a rare, unflinching photographic record of the process of mass murder that took place at Auschwitz-Birkenau.


These are not easy images to look at.  They are even harder to comprehend.  But we must not turn away.  We must face up to what happened in the camps, and what led to their existence.


As Zinovii Tolkatchev repeatedly wrote next to the sketches he drew at Majdanek on that day in January 1945:  “to remember, not to forget”.


For the United Nations, that is especially important.  After all, the founding of our Organization was a direct response to the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust.


As the survivors of the Holocaust become fewer, it falls to the rest of us -- in the words of the UN Charter, to succeeding generations -- to carry forward the work of remembrance.


To prevent this nightmare from ever being repeated.


That is our duty today, and in the future.  These images will help us in that mission.


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