UN has duty to speak out for human rights, Ban says at Holocaust event

22 January 2011 – The United Nations, which was created in the aftermath of the Second World War, has a duty to stand up and speak out for human rights and offer a voice to the voiceless, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today at an event to remember the victims of the Holocaust.

“The United Nations was created in hope, and hope is what it stands for to this day,” he said in remarks at Manhattan's Park East Synagogue, ahead of the next week's International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

“Let us work together to make the UN all that it can be, all that it must be – a force for democracy, a champion of freedom, a lamp for human dignity, human rights and human aspiration.

“Above all, let us renew our collective determination to never allow such a terrible passage of history to happen again,” he told the congregants, which included some survivors of the Holocaust.

“For me, for many people in the world, you are symbols – symbols of human endurance, symbols of hope, symbols of the redemptive power of remembrance.”

In 2005, the General 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 Member States to develop educational programmes to instill the memory of the tragedy in future generations.

“It is a day to remember the dead – the millions who perished in the darkest chapter of human history,” noted the Secretary-General. “It is a day to celebrate the lives of those who survived.

“Above all, it is a day to speak out, to speak out against those who would deny the Holocaust, who would diminish it or 'explain' it away.

“Let us also remember: the United Nations was created, in part, to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. In the very best sense, the United Nations was founded in human misery and human tragedy.

“As United Nations Secretary-General, I never forget this fundamental mission: to stand, to speak out, for human rights and human decency. To protect the world's innocents. To speak for those who would otherwise not be heard. To offer help to those in need.”

Yesterday, Mr. Ban met at UN Headquarters with a group of young people who are members of the International Auschwitz Committee. They were from several countries, and several faiths, and were accompanied by several Holocaust survivors.

They told the Secretary-General that for them, there are two hearts in the world: 'one is Auschwitz, the other the United Nations.'

“The one is the remembrance of the past. The other is the determination never to let that past be repeated,” said Mr. Ban. “Never again.”

Various activities are scheduled to be held around the world in the coming week in connection with the Day, which this year focuses on the theme, “Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion,” and will pay tribute to the bravery and ingenuity of the women who faced Nazi persecution with strength and dignity during the Second World War.

Events in New York will include the opening on Monday of the exhibition “The Memories Live On,” which features drawings of Auschwitz made by an unknown prisoner of the concentration camp, as well as a screening on Tuesday of the documentary film “Daring to Resist,” which recounts the stories of three young Jewish women who found unexpected ways to fight back against the Nazis.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN-backed conference raises awareness of evils of anti-Semitism

Related Stories


In-depth Interviews