28 January 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference to launch holocaust commemorative stamps

 


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon felt strongly that the new Holocaust commemorative postal stamp demonstrated the commitment by the United Nations to pay tribute to all the victims, honour the survivors and reaffirm the Organization’s efforts to help prevent future acts of genocide, Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said at a Headquarters press conference today.


Launching the new stamp, Mr. Akasaka said the Israeli and United Nations versions of the stamp would carry the same call -- to remember the victims and continue to stand in solidarity with them.  The launch, under the theme “Remembrance and beyond”, took place on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.


He said the United Nations stamp, incorporating the award-winning logo of the Department of Public Information’s Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, would be issued in New York, Geneva and Vienna, simultaneously with a national stamp issued by the Israeli Postal Company.


Also attending the launch was Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, who expressed appreciation for the November 2005 General Assembly resolution marking the International Day.  The decision had become an ongoing process in an outreach programme whereby people worldwide were taught the lessons and horrors of the Holocaust and made to become part of the army of goodwill committed to the words “never again”.


The issuance of the stamp, in close cooperation between the United Nations and Israel, was another step in the right direction, he said.  It was especially important today -- when witnessing the horrors of Darfur and elsewhere, and when hearing voices in the Secretariat building calling for the destruction of Israel and denying the Holocaust, while preparing the next one -- to stand together with the United Nations “to commit ourselves once more, not only to the memory of the victims and to the glory of the liberators, but to the future of our children and grandchildren”.


He said the present era was defined by a crucial battle between extremism and moderation, between civilization and those determined to destroy it.  Holocaust denial and a resurgence of Nazism were both part of the extreme nature of some groups around the world, which, it was very much to be hoped, were minorities in the world and in their own countries.  Even in Iran, most people wished to live in peace and did not agree with the blatant declarations of their President.  Most Palestinians would also rather raise their children in peace and give them a good life; no baby was born wanting to be a suicide bomber.


Today’s commemoration was another effort to spread tolerance, preach understanding, teach, bolster the moderates and marginalize the extremists, he said, adding:  “We have a duty to do so, not only to the victims of the Holocaust and their memory, not only for the safety of the people around the world who are subject to extremism and to violence and to terror, but for our children and grandchildren who we want to live in a world of tolerance, moderation, civility and understanding, rather than a world of violence, terror and extremism.”


Also speaking at the press conference, through an unofficial interpreter, was Ariel Atias, Israel’s Communications Minister, who said he was deeply inspired by the United Nations decision to issue the stamp and bring it to the public to help ensure that a holocaust would never recur.  That was especially important today, when there was a nation seeking to destroy the State of Israel.


Another speaker was Alicia Bárcena, Under-Secretary-General for Management and overseer of the United Nations Postal Administration, who said General Assembly resolution 60/7 had denoted the commemoration on the liberation date of the largest Nazi death camp.  She paid tribute to Robert Stein, a colleague in the Department of Management who died last year and whose design for the stamp -- barbed wire erupting into a flower -- would cross generations and cross frontiers.


Responding to questions, Mr. Gillerman said several important landmarks in recent years had made Israel feel more like an “accepted and more normal” member of the United Nations.  Another ambassador had said the Organization had three kinds of members -- permanent members, non-permanent members and one permanent non-member.  That was no longer the case, as illustrated by the resolution to commemorate the Day of Remembrance, the Outreach Programme, the resolution unanimously condemning denial of the Holocaust in no uncertain terms, Israel’s election as Vice-President to the General Assembly, and former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s attendance at the inauguration of the new wing of the memorial museum in Jerusalem.


While all those measures were of great significance, they were mainly in the realm of “atmosphere and style”, he said.  Now was the time to move on to substance by having the Security Council and General Assembly take steps to recognize, not only Israel’s right to exist, but to exist as a Jewish State, to encourage the peace process with its neighbours, and to bolster and embolden the moderates who were marginalizing and isolating the extremists.  While atmosphere and style had paved the way, now was the time to make the United Nations a real partner in Israel’s quest for peace, stability and security in the region.


Mr. Atias added that Israel and the United Nations were dealing with very problematic situations now, especially in light of the fact that the State of Israel was fighting for peace with those neighbours calling for its destruction.  There were Holocaust survivors still living in Israel, and it was difficult to believe that they could cynically use the Holocaust to garner sympathy, as a correspondent had suggested.


He concluded by stressing the importance of encouraging sanctions against Iran, noting that there had already been a lot of symbolic decisions.  Now was the time to “come into real action and to encourage these kinds of decisions against Iran”.


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For information media • not an official record