Memory of Holocaust victims honoured through series of UN events

28 January 2008 – Marking the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, United Nations offices worldwide are holding a series of events this week, including concerts, exhibitions and the issuance of a special stamp, to raise awareness about the tragedy and to honour those that perished.

The annual Holocaust Remembrance Week kicked off today at UN Headquarters in New York with the launch of a special postal stamp by the UN Postal Administration.

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

“Both stamps bear the same design and will carry the same call that we must remember the victims of the Holocaust and continue to stand in solidarity with them,” Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, told reporters at the launch.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon felt strongly that the new stamp demonstrated the UN’s commitment “to pay tribute to all the victims of the Holocaust, honour the survivors, and reaffirms its efforts to help prevent future acts of genocide,” Mr. Akasaka added.

Ariel Atias, Israel’s Minister of Communications, said he was “deeply inspired” by the UN’s decision to issue the stamp and bring it to the public to help ensure that a holocaust would never occur again. That was especially important today, he stated through a translator, when there is a member of the world body calling for Israel’s destruction.

It was in November 2005 that the Assembly designated 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, as an annual International Day of Commemoration to honour the victims of the Holocaust, and urged countries to develop educational programmes to instil the memory of the tragedy in future generations.

Ambassador Dan Gillerman of Israel today voiced appreciation for the fact that the Assembly’s resolution designating the International Day has 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.”

As part of the activities to mark the Day, General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim took part in an event at the Consulate General of Italy in New York at which he read the names of the Jews deported from Italy and the former Italian territories.

Mr. Kerim will also be among the speakers at the Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial ceremony and concert to be held tonight, featuring the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta, along with musicians from Tel Aviv University.

He is expected to stress that the Day must be more than a commemoration or a remembrance, and serve as a call to action in honour of the victims and survivors. “The Holocaust fed man’s ego with delusions of supremacy, and tried to erase the bonds that all human beings share. We must spare no effort to ensure that we never again witness such evil.”

Other events marking the Day include the unveiling on 30 January by the Department of Public Information of the first permanent exhibit on the Holocaust and the UN, which presents an overview of the tragedy in the context of World War II and the founding of the Organization.

In Vienna, UN staff marked the Day at a solemn ceremony on Friday which brought together representatives of the Jewish community, the Romanis and other affected groups, as well as politicians, the diplomatic community, students and civil society.

A key feature of the event was the unveiling of a reproduction of a series of postcards depicting life in a labour camp, originally created by Holocaust victim Karl Schafranek in Eisenerz, Styria in 1940. They are now on display for the first time since being smuggled out of the camp. The exhibition also included paintings by Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Adolf Frankl, as well as by Dvora Barzilai from the Exhibition “Shalom Peace Pace.”

In Brazil, an observance was held on 25 January with President Jose Inacio Lula da Silva and the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, César Maia. In Madagascar, a permanent exhibit on the Holocaust will be unveiled at the UN Information Centre.

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme is also coordinating a video conference for students with the UN information centres in Antananarivo, Madagascar, and Lomé, Togo, and educators at the “Memorial de la Shoah” in Paris. In Tokyo on 29 January, an educational workshop targeting young students will focus on the links between the Holocaust and human rights issues.

This year’s observance focuses on the need to ensure the protection of human rights for all, and coincides with the 60th anniversary year of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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