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OPENING REMARKS

MR. SHASHI THAROOR, UNITED NATIONS UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC INFORMATION

AT THE FIRST UNIVERSAL COMMEMORATION

IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST

27 JANUARY 2006

GENERAL ASSEMBLY HALL

UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Excellencies,
Friends,

My name is Shashi Tharoor, and it is my privilege to welcome you to this special commemoration, on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And let me add a special welcome to those who are joining us by video conference from the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Late last year, the 191 Member States of the United Nations took an historic step when they decided to dedicate a special day -- 27 January, which is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – to the memory of those who were murdered, and those were cruelly scarred, in the Holocaust.

It is entirely appropriate that this day be commemorated at the United Nations. The UN was itself built on the ashes of the Holocaust – when they were confronted by the full horror of what had been done in the death camps of Europe, world leaders were inspired – indeed driven -- to create a place where they could work together to change our world for the better. So the UN is itself a testimony to the victims of genocide.

It is, of course, impossible to know what symphonies have not been written, what diseases have not been cured or what children have not been born because more than six million lives were cut short, before they could fulfil their promise, But no-one could doubt that the patrimony of the world has been much reduced by the loss of so many gifts and talents, great and small. The whole world was diminished by this abomination, and the whole world has cause to mourn and remember.

But to remember is not enough, We remember so as not to forget – not to forget the past, and not to forget our duty to the present.

So I am glad that we are observing this day here at the home of the one universal international organization, because there are lessons that people from every country, every religion and every culture must draw from the Holocaust – lessons about opposing tyranny and oppression, and lessons about building tolerance and respecting human rights. Humanity has drawn some of those lessons, but all has not yet become what it should be. It is not yet time for us to rest, safe in the assumption that human rights will always be protected, and human dignity always preserved.

Today we remember the depths into which humanity can be plunged when racism and intolerance are allowed to go unchecked. In part, we remember to honour those who perished so needlessly. In part, we remember to mourn our collective loss – to remember what these people would have been and could have done – the difference they could have made to our imperfect world. And in part we remember to acknowledge our duty to the dead -- to foster respect for all living beings.

It is for these reasons that we have chosen to title the events around this day ‘Remembrance and Beyond.”