International Day of Commemoration
in memory of the victims of the Holocaust
Holocaust Memorial Ceremony
Trusteeship Council Chamber
27 January 2009
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The theme of the Memorial Ceremony was “An Authentic Basis for Hope: Holocaust Remembrance and Education”, with keynote speaker Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chairman of Yad Vashem Council.
Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information Kiyo Akasaka opened the event by saying: "We remember and honour those who cannot be here with us today, millions of innocent Jews, and other victims who perished under the Nazi regime--political dissidents, the disabled, Jehovas Witnesses, homosexuals, Russian prisoners of war, Poles and the Roma and Sinti, who were also targeted for extermination... The International Day of Commemoration was established so that the world would not forget the terrible and irreversible loss the human race suffered as a result of that tragedy. We also acknowledge the brave people who fought against the forces of evil during one of the darkest chapters in history, such as those who liberated concentration camps, those who spoke against injustice, and those who risked their own lives to save others". [Read the full remarks ]
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro read a message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In his message, Ban said "We must continue to examine why the world failed to prevent the Holocaust and other atrocities since. That way, we will be better armed to defeat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance. We must continue to teach our children the lessons of history’s darkest chapters. That will help them do a better job than their elders in building a world of peaceful coexistence. We must combat Holocaust denial, and speak out in the face of bigotry and hatred. And we must uphold the standards and laws that the United Nations has put in place to protect people and fight impunity for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Our world continues to be plagued by ruthless violence, utter disregard for human rights, and the targetting of people solely for who they are. On this fourth International Day of Commemoration, let us remember the victims of the Holocaust by reaffirming our faith in the dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family. And let us pledge to work together to turn today’s hope into tomorrow’s better future." [Read the full statement]
H.E. Mr. Joseph Nsengimana, Acting President of the 63rd Session of the General Assembly and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations, read a statement from Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly. The PGA's message said: "The theme of our solemn commemoration today, “remembrance and education”, highlights both our personal and shared recollection of the victims and our work to prevent all acts of genocide, today and in the future. We are honoured to have very special guests with us today to provide testimony, as victims and eyewitnesses... At their core, all genocides, all holocausts, start with the alienation, demonization and the marginalization of the “Other” – those citizens of another religion, another race, ethnicity, another set of political ideas, or another sexual orientation than our own". [Read the full statement]
H.E. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations delivered a statement, in which she said: "We have the responsibility not to allow genocide of the Jewish people, nor of any people. We have the responsibility to learn and to teach the lessons of the Holocaust to prevent it from ever reoccurring. We have the responsibility not to remain silent. For, to remain silent and indifferent to the horrors of the Holocaust is probably the greatest sin of all, let alone denying it. We have the responsibility to act against the forces of anti-Semitism, bigotry, and racism in any form. We have the responsibility to condemn those who educate children to murder and kill in the name of God. We have the responsibility to condemn any Member State of the United Nations that calls for the destruction of another Member State and engages in Holocaust denial". [Read the full statement]
Cantor Ya'akov Motzen recited the memorial prayers "Kel Ma'le Rachamim" and "Ani Ma'amin". Cantor Ya’akov Motzen is a native of Tel Aviv, Israel. He began his career at age six as a soloist with the choir of Cantor Shlomo Ravitz. While serving in the Israeli Army, he devotedly performed for wounded soldiers and became Vice-President of the Nachala Organization, which is dedicated to entertaining injured soldiers. His exceptional voice and Cantorial technique have earned Cantor Motzen a place of prominence in his field. He has released over a dozen recordings of Hassidic and Cantorial music.
Ruth Glasberg Gold, a survivor of the Transnistria camps (in the former USSR) gave a personal testimonial on her experiences during the Holocaust. Ruth Glasberg Gold was born in Bukovina, Romania (now Ukraine). In 1941, eleven-year-old Ruth was deported to Bershad, the largest concentration camp in Transnistria (former U.S.S.R.), where her entire family perished. Following the liberation of Bershad on 6 March, 1944, Ms. Gold escaped from communist Romania. Ms. Gold was a participant in The International Study of Organized Persecution of Children, founder of the first support group for child survivors of the Holocaust in Florida. Ruth’s Journey: A Survivor’s Journey is her first book. Ms. Gold concluded her speech by saying "We, the child survivors, are the last witnesses to the most tragic chapter in history. We returned from the abyss of human misery and survived to speak the unspeakable. By telling our stories, by teaching about the Holocaust and writing our memoirs, we force ourselves to recall the painful past in order to assure future generations of children an innocent and happy childhood free of menacing violence. Now we want to be assured that our efforts were not in vain. We want to live out our lives secure in the knowledge tat these inhumanities will never happen again - not because there are laws which say they are wrong, but because PEOPLE say so. It is people who should admonish one another with the biblical command Zachor, Remember!". [Read the full statement]
Leonid Rozenberg, a veteran of the Soviet Army who participated in the liberation of Berlin, also shared his personal story. Mr. Rozenberg was born in Izyaslav (Ukraine) in 1921. A platoon commander in the Soviet Army from August 1941 until the end of the war, he fought at Rostov, Krasnodar, Novorossiysk, Kursk, in the forced crossing of the Dnieper River and in the liberation of Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Germany. Mr. Rozenberg said: "Just a little more than 60 years divide us from the end of that cruel war, but sometimes it feels as if the human race has not learned any lesson from it. Innocent blood is spilled again. New Hitlers again threaten the world. There is nothing more valuable than historic memory. And one of the main lessons of the Holocaust is the need to preserve for the future generations the memory of the Nazi atrocities, to expose those who committed evil deeds and to show the grave consequences of those deeds for the humanity... As a person who served in the military, I believe that the international public should join efforts against terrorism and the Evil, in order to prevent the second Catastrophe. We are grateful to the organizers of this important forum for reminding to the whole world of the past Catastrophe and calling for vigilance to prevent a new one in the future". [Read the full statement]
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, presented the ceremony's keynote speech. Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, Israel. Rabbi Lau was born in Poland in 1937. During the early years of World War II, he was incarcerated in the Piotrków ghetto. In October 1942, his father and brothers were deported to the Treblinka extermination camp, where they perished. In November 1944, Rabbi Lau’s mother was sent to her death while he and his brother Naftali were deported to the Czenstochov forced labour camp and from there to the Buchenwald concentration camp. Following liberation, he emigrated to Israel on a ship of orphaned refugee children. Rabbi Lau has served in many rabbinic capacities, among them Regional Rabbi of Northern Tel Aviv, Chief Rabbi of Netanya and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. [Full statement forthcoming]
The ceremony will also included musical performances by concert pianist Elisha Abas, who played his own composition Rebirth* and violinist Yoon Kwon, who played Bloch Nigun and the theme from Schindler's List**. Elisha Abas was born in Jerusalem in 1971. A child prodigy mentored by Arthur Rubinstein, he is the great-great grandson of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin. Mr. Abas won first place in the American-Israel Cultural Foundation music competition eight times in a row and first place in the Claremont Piano Competition. He has performed as a guest artist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, at London's Royal Albert Hall and New York's Carnegie Hall.
Yoon Kwon is the youngest first violinist for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. She began studying at the age of 8 as a protégé of the late Dorothy DeLay. At 13 she was the youngest winner in the New Jersey Symphony Young Artists Audition, and at age 17 she won the Juilliard Concerto Competition, through which she made her New York debut at Avery Fisher Hall. Ms. Kwon received her bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School and has performed at festivals in the United States, Switzerland, Italy and Finland.