International Day of Commemoration in Memory of
the Victims of the Holocaust
Memorial Ceremony, General Assembly Hall
25 January 2013
H.E. Ms. Signe Burgstaller, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations
Mr. Under-Secretary-General, Excellencies, Honored Survivors of the Holocaust, Ladies and Gentlemen,
"To me there is no other choice". These were the words spoken by Raoul Wallenberg when urged by his colleague Per Anger at the Swedish Legation in Budapest in the early days of 1945 to prepare for his departure, in the face of the Soviet invasion of the Hungarian capital.
"To me there is no other choice”, he said. “I have accepted this assignment and I could never return to Stockholm without knowing that I had done everything in human power to save as many Jews as possible".
Raoul Wallenberg never returned to Stockholm. He was arrested by the Soviets in January 1945 and taken to a prison in Moscow. Until this day his ultimate fate remains unknown. His heroic acts, however, have not been forgotten.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we observe the International Day of Commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust and to pay our respect to the survivors and their families. I would like to especially recognize the survivors and their family members who are with us here today.
It cannot be repeated often enough: it is our common duty to remember the horrific crimes committed by the Nazis and to pass on the tragic lessons of the Holocaust to present and future generations.
This year, we also pay a special tribute to the rescuers and the courageous and fearless acts they committed in the name of humanity. To remember the rescuers during the Holocaust is another way of keeping history alive.
The decisive actions of the rescuers in the face of evil show that even in the darkest moments of history, individual resolve and human conscience can change the course of events, however slightly. Their courage to care and their determination to act in accordance with their moral values will always remain a source of inspiration.
In taking action to rescue Jews and other persecuted group from deportation and death, the rescuers often risked their careers and their lives when defying official protocol and repressive laws. Many were censured, punished or killed for their acts of courage.
Raoul Wallenberg was one of these courageous persons. Last year marked the centenary of his birth. Around the world, in more than 50 countries, tributes were paid to his life and legacy. The courage and ingenuity of his actions helped save tens of thousands of Jewish lives from the ongoing genocide.
Sadly, genocide remains a threat in our societies and in the world today. Early warning mechanisms, when triggered, must be responded to. Although the main responsibility to protect lies with the state and the international community, genocide prevention begins with the individual who takes a stance and speaks up for someone else targeted by intolerance and discrimination.
In the spirit of the work and legacy of Raoul Wallenberg and all the other rescuers during the Holocaust, the fight against anti-semitism, racism, xenophobia and related intolerance must continue.
"To me there is no other choice". Let those simple but powerful words serve as a reminder to all of us of the difference that one individual can make.