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70th Anniversary Observance of the Kristallnacht pogrom: Welcoming remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, on 9 and 10 November 1938.

A warm welcome to our distinguished panellists, who will examine how the shocking events of Kristallnacht in Austria and Germany signalled a turning point in history.

It is important for us to look back at the issues that led to the violence incited by the Nazis -- anti-Semitism, discrimination and persecution of Jews under the Third Reich.

And it is vital for us to understand the impact that the destruction of Jewish property, homes and businesses had on the Jewish people. 

With the burning of synagogues and the destruction of sacred religious texts, we saw darkness descend.  This darkness would quickly spread across Europe.

We must also reflect on the responsibility of the international community, both then and now, to protect populations at risk. 

The utter failure of the world to come to the help of Jewish people who were suffering at the hands of the Nazis will forever be a stain on human history.

This is why we decided to commemorate this year’s anniversary under the theme: “Nowhere to Turn.”

In choosing this theme, we are painfully aware that, even today, there are children, women and men who have nowhere to turn.

As hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in eastern Congo, terrorized, violated, and deprived of their basic human rights, we are mindful of the responsibility of the international community to assist them. 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is leading the United Nations diplomatic and political response to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  As you know, he travelled to Nairobi last week and personally engaged international and regional leaders in trying to find a solution.

He has also mobilized the United Nations’ humanitarian workers and peacekeepers to address this dire crisis.

Today, through the United Nations, we have the mandates and the body of international human rights laws and mechanisms, to protect individual human rights and civil liberties.

But we did not have these institutions and systems in 1938, and little action was taken to cease the cruel treatment and murder of the Jews.

Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the persecution and imprisonment of Jews.  Thousands of sons and fathers were torn from their families and sent off to concentration camps that night.

Even as some nations registered their outrage, most countries remained unwilling to open their borders to increased Jewish emigration.

Today’s discussion will address the factors that affected immigration policy then, and those that affect immigration today.

I am very happy that Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, is with us today.

A daughter of German refugees, and a scholar who has thought and taught on many important issues of our time, Ambassador Shalev brings unique experiences to this discussion.

I will now hand over to Eric Falt, Director of the Outreach Division, who I have asked to moderate this programme on my behalf.

I wish you a very interesting and productive discussion.  Thank you.

         

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