Second World War One of History’s ‘Most Epic Struggles for Freedom and Liberation’, Says Secretary-General, as General Assembly Marks Anniversary of Conflict’s End
Second World War One of History’s ‘Most Epic Struggles for Freedom and Liberation’, Says Secretary-General, as General Assembly Marks Anniversary of Conflict’s End
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
85th Meeting (AM)
Second World War One of History’s ‘Most Epic Struggles for Freedom and Liberation’,
Says Secretary-General, as General Assembly Marks Anniversary of Conflict’s End
Russian Federation Delivers Message from President Dimitry Medvedev;
Assembly Hears from Germany, Some 30 Other Speakers at Commemorative Meeting
The General Assembly today marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon describing the conflict as “one of the most epic struggles for freedom and liberation in history”, and adding that the devastating seven-year war had also led to the creation of the United Nations to foster peace, international cooperation and prevent future conflicts.
The Secretary-General opened the Assembly’s solemn commemoration of the victims of the War by reciting the names and places that still resonated, despite the passing of so many years: “Stalingrad and Kursk; Auschwitz and Dachau; D-Day and the final battle for Berlin”. The costs of the War were beyond calculation and beyond comprehension, he said, recalling that some 40 million civilians had died and 20 million soldiers — nearly half of those in the Soviet Union alone.
Those were years of unspeakable atrocities, of lost faith and lost humanity. At the same time, those years had also seen extraordinary bravery, as well. Yet, as the world had prevailed over tyranny, “idealism had its triumph, too”, he said. Some 65 years ago, in San Francisco, delegates had just begun writing the Charter of the United Nations — an organization founded on that most human of hopes: an end to the “scourge of war”.
So, it was fitting, today, that the Organization commemorated the War’s end at a moment when nations were also gathered in New York to advance the cause of peace at the month-long Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. That Treaty was also a document of hope — a vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world, he said.
Setting the stage for the remembrance, the representative of the Russian Federation, on whose initiative the commemoration had been organized, delivered a message from President Dimitry Medvedev. The Russian leader honoured the memory of the heroism of all those who selflessly fought for the future of the generations to come. He said that losses had been suffered by practically every family in the Soviet Union, upon which Hitler’s military had unleashed all its might. The tens of millions of lost lives would be remembered forever.
“Today, while recollecting the events of that cruel War, we must understand the monstrous consequences of violence, racial and religious intolerance,” he continued, and added that, in that light, the objective of strengthening the potential of the United Nations became ever more important. Through the years, the Organization’s objectives were still relevant and it remained the firm structure of global relations through which all nations, working together, would be able to effectively confront modern threats, such as terrorism, weapons proliferation, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and all forms of discrimination.
President Medvedev said: “We must resolutely rebuff cynical politically motivated attempts to rewrite history, to revise the conclusions and decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal.” The international community’s duty to both the soldiers-liberators and to future generations was to protect the truth about the War and the significance of the victory, as well as to resolutely oppose those who desecrated the glory of the heroes who had defeated fascism.
In a sombre address, the representative of Germany acknowledged that the outbreak of the Second World War remained linked with the name of his country, which had brought “unspeakable suffering” upon its neighbours and, as a consequence, also upon its own citizens. “I stand before you today to reaffirm that my country has accepted its responsibility for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany. This responsibility we will never abdicate,” he declared.
Continuing, he said Germany’s moral responsibility for the Holocaust, “this despicable crime against humanity”, entailed a particular obligation for his country towards the State of Israel and our relationship “will always be a special one”. He reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to further deepening European integration and also said that reconciliation with Russia and other States that gained their independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union was of special significance for Germany, considering the enormous price their peoples paid during the war.
On the creation of the United Nations out of the ruins of the Second World War, he expressed gratitude that Germany had been given the opportunity to take part in that unique, challenging and indispensable project in San Francisco to repair the fabric of international relations and to provide the world with tools to peacefully manage the world’s affairs, in order to prevent global catastrophes like that war. The legacy of the horrors of the Second World War, the legacy of the countless victims, committed and commanded the international community to strive to attain those common goals together, he added.
For her part, Israel’s delegate said the victims of the War sacrificed their lives so that humanity prevailed over madness and hope over hate. Her country paid eternal homage to those men and women who had saved the world “during humanity’s darkest hour”. Yet, for some victims, redemption never came, she said, recalling Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jewish writer and thinker who had been murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. She had written: “Somebody else will carry on from where my life has been cut short. And that is why I must try to live a good and faithful life to my last breath. In this way, those who come after me do not have to start all over again.”
Those words were a powerful reminder of the path to be taken so that the sacrifice of those who fought, and those who died would never be in vain. Those words were a reminder to honour their legacy by protecting a world they fought to create; and a reminder to stand up to tyrants, despots and all those who sought to choke the human spirit. “Those words remind us to act immediately and with all our might, lest it be too late, as it were for tens of millions of people in that dreadful war,” she stated.
Many of those sentiments were echoed by the nearly 30 delegations from all regions of the world who took part in the commemoration. The representative of the United States said that during the War, the world faced far more than a rival power; it faced a rival view of humanity. That view had been one based on conquest and subjugation; one that despised the existence of a people and one that contravened the very rights and freedoms for which the United States had long stood. Sixty-five years later, the United States joined others in hailing the victory of the great wartime alliance that had defeated tyranny.
At the same time, today was also an opportunity to recall that, just as fascism could not be defeated by any one nation, “we face a new generation of challenges that require global solutions”. He called on the international community to stand together against war, aggression, disease, terrorism, Holocaust denial, intolerance, bigotry, poverty and despair. All nations should work together to create a world that saw all people as truly equal. He also urged nations to work together to stem the tide of nuclear peril and to instead help extend the reach of hope and prosperity throughout the world.
Before the Assembly began its commemorative meeting, Member States took note of the necessary payment made by Saint Kitts and Nevis to reduce its arrears below the amount specified in Article 19 of the Charter. [Article 19 states that a Member State in arrears to the extent of the amount levied on that country for the preceding two full years shall have no vote in the General Assembly.]
Also speaking today was the Acting President of the General Assembly ( Sudan), and the Assistant for Foreign Policy to the President of Belarus.
Other participants included the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Republic of Moldova, Poland, China, Brazil, France, United Kingdom, Serbia, Viet Nam, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Lithuania, Croatia, Guyana, Montenegro, and India.
The Observer for the Holy See also spoke.
The General Assembly met this morning to hold a special solemn meeting in commemoration of all victims of the Second World War.
ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan), Acting President of the General Assembly, said the Assembly had gathered today to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, which had been one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. The meeting also provided Member States an opportunity to reflect on the immeasurable human toll of war. The Second World War had taught the lesson that all efforts must be made to solve conflicts and differences through peaceful means. It was also clear that national, regional and subregional mechanisms must be strengthened if the international community was to adequately tackle — and head off — modern challenges. “Only by acting together and with political will can we ensure peace and a better future for coming generations,” he declared.
He went on to say that, in its resolution 64/257, the Assembly had decided to hold a special meeting to commemorate all victims of war. In the case of the Second World War, that meant some 60 million people, with civilians making up more than half of those that had lost their lives. The end of the War had united both victims and survivors in the joint effort to make a better world. They had pledged “never again”, to the scourge of war.
Some six weeks after the end of the war, the United Nations had been established to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, he said. Today’s commemoration served as a sad reminder that armed conflicts still existed and civilians continued to pay a heavy prices. As that was the case, he called on the Assembly to pledge to purse a renewed path to peace, security and development for all.
BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General, said the names and places resonated, despite the passing of many years: Stalingrad and Kursk; Auschwitz and Dachau; D-Day and the final battle for Berlin.
“Today, we mark the anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe; the last, we hope, of the world’s total wars,” he said, noting that the costs of the War were beyond calculation and beyond comprehension. Some 40 million civilians had died and 20 million soldiers — nearly half of those in the Soviet Union alone. Those were years of unspeakable atrocities, of lost faith and lost humanity. At the same time, those years had also seen extraordinary bravery, as well.
“World War II was one of the most epic struggles for freedom and liberation in history. And in the end, idealism had its triumph, too,” he said. Some 65 years ago, in San Francisco, delegates had just begun writing the Charter of the United Nations — an organization founded on that most human of hopes: an end to the “scourge of war”.
So, it was fitting, today, that the Organization commemorated the War’s end at a moment when nations were gathered to advance the cause of peace at the Review of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. That Treaty was also a document of hope — a vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world.
VITALY CHURKIN (Russian Federation) began his statement by reading an address by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who told the Assembly that, when the great victory over fascism had been achieved 65 years ago, it had marked the failure of the plots hatched by perfidious aggressors. A grave threat to the very basic principles of civilization had been averted, but with a colossal cost of joint efforts and lost lives. “The memory of the heroism of all those who selflessly fought for the future of the generations to come, bringing the joint victory closer, lives in our hearts,” he said.
President Medvedev went on to say that losses had been suffered by practically every family in the Soviet Union, upon which Hitler’s military had unleashed all its might. The tens of millions of lost lives would be remembered forever. The sacrifices made, dangers overcome and solidarity generated during the war years would be commemorated in Moscow on 9 May, when the people of the Russian Federation would pay tribute to the veterans “and all those who prevented global catastrophe”. He thanked all those Heads of State and Government who had agreed to participant in that event, which held such a special meaning for his country.
“Today, while recollecting the events of that cruel War, we must understand the monstrous consequences of violence, racial and religious intolerance,” he continued, and added that, in that light, the objective of strengthening the potential of the United Nations — created to prevent new wars — became ever more important. Through the years, the Organization had remained the firm structure of international relations and its objectives were still relevant. The most important among those were the establishment of an equitable world order based on the principles of humanism and mutually beneficial cooperation; the maintenance of international peace and security; and contributing to progressive political, socio-economic and cultural development.
With that in mind, President Medvedev said in his message: “we must resolutely rebuff cynical politically motivated attempts to rewrite history, to revise the conclusions and decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal”. The international community’s duty to both the soldiers-liberators and to future generations was to protect the truth about the War and the significance of the victory, as well as to resolutely oppose those who desecrated the glory of the heroes who had defeated fascism. Moreover, it was only through the joint efforts of the international community that all nations would be able to effectively confront modern threats such as terrorism, weapons proliferation, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and all forms of discrimination.
For his part, Ambassador CHURKIN added that it was an undisputed fact that the most significant and crucial events leading to victory in the Second World War had taken place on the Soviet-German Front. The battles of Moscow, Stalingrad and Kursk, the operations to liberate Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and the battle for Berlin were all “written in gold” as a part of global military history. Further, it was the “Red Army” that had, on 27 January 1945, liberated the Osvencim (Auschwitz) concentration camp, and that date was now celebrated as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
“Today we pay tribute to the courage of all Europeans who resisted Nazism. That Nazism had brought immeasurable suffering to the German people as well. Never will we forget the German anti-fascists who suffered for the ideals of a democratic future for Germany,” he said, adding that the Russian Federation also highly valued the contribution of those that had opened the Second Front in Europe and other fronts during the War. “Our common responsibility is to follow this example. Only then shall we be able to fulfil the main legacy of the authors of the UN Charter, ‘to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’,” he said of the joint victory that had united the peoples of the world and which current and future generations had not only a right, but a duty, to be proud of.
VALENTIN RYBAKOV, Assistant for Foreign Policy to the President of Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenko, delivering a statement on behalf of the President, said his country had lost every third citizen in the Second World War. Unfortunately, the subject of that War had been recently interpreted in such a way as if it were only the Western European States and the United States that had won it, and for many decades were a guarantor of peace. Without underestimating the contribution of any of the States that had opposed the Nazi coalition, he said it should not be forgotten that the main thrust of the fascist aggression had been directed against the Soviet Union, whose people were doomed to total annihilation. Yet, Belarus had not yielded to the invaders. He was rightfully proud that Belarus, together with the other people of the Soviet Union, had made the principal contribution to the great victory.
He said no one should forget who had brought freedom and peace to Europe for many years to come, declaring that European unity today stemmed from the victory of 1945. Yet, in a paradoxical twist of life, the united Europe that had once thanked her liberators with tears in her eyes was not in a hurry today to invite to the common home those who had not spared their lives to save her from fascist slavery. “ Europe fences herself off by various restrictions and farfetched claims,” he added.
Continuing, he pointed out that the response of the international community to the challenges of today should be by approaching people on the basis humanity and the universal spiritual values, declaring that it was high time to relegate to the dust the cold war stereotypes. The tragic experience of the Second World War had led the community of States, including Belarus, to create the United Nations to prevent deadly conflicts. Belarus had been, and would remain an important factor of security and stability, in both Europe and globally, he added.
JUAN ANTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said Member States had gathered to mourn all those that had lost their lives in the Second World War, and also deplore the totalitarian ideologies so deeply rooted in that conflict. The Union also wanted to say “no” to any other new way of exclusion, whether it was based on economic, religious, gender or whatever other grounds. The aim today was to recall the victims and the basic values that had guided the creation of the United Nations.
As a result of the war, Europe’s soul had been deeply hurt and its place in the world had been largely contested. Since the end of the war, Europe had strived to put an end to violations of democracy. It had often been said that crisis encouraged progress and was seen as food for thought. No doubt, the history of the European Union could be seen as a success story closely linked to the ravages caused by war. With the aim of preserving Europe from those horrors, some visionary European leaders had launched a new project, that of a European integration that was both a vision to overcome the horrors of the past and a road map to achieving that vision. That project had been launched on 9 May, 60 years ago. Today, it was celebrated as Europe Day, a day of peace and unity.
That vision had been proven right, particularly because it had brought stability, progress and solidarity to the continent and had recently allowed a new step to be taken — a new united Europe under the Lisbon Treaty. Today, Europe and the entire world faced new challenges, of a different kind, mainly those underscored at the Millennium Summit. Europe and the rest of the world had the resources, technology and experience to promote development, enhance security, advance human rights and strengthen the rule of law, he stated, adding: “We have shared interests in doing so. We must put our efforts together to overcome these threats as we did 65 years ago when peace and freedom beat war and oppression.”
AKSOLTAN ATAEVA (Turkmenistan) said that, today, there was renewed interest in searching for examining the causes and impacts of that most bloody of wars. Knowing the truth of the war was necessary not only for historical purposes, but to avoid the mistakes of the past. While the Second World War had been fought far from the boarders of her neutral country, its impact had nevertheless been felt in every Turkmen home.
She said a great many Turkmen soldiers had fought as partisans, and the main burden of those fleeing the war had fallen on the women and children of her country, who had willingly opened their homes to receive them. The women of Turkmenistan were heroes equal to those that fought on the main fronts. The bloody war had come to an end and a new political will had been awakened, aimed at preventing such further conflicts. She marked the memory of all those who fought to save the world. Indeed, the world would be a very different place if Soviet sons and daughters had not given their lives.
SIRODJIDIN M. ASLOV (Tajikistan) said the commemoration of the victory over fascism was an opportunity to salute all those that had fought on all fronts, including the 92,000 sons of his country that had fallen in the war. Indeed, during those years, it was difficult to find one family that had not been touched by the war in some way. From their savings, the people of the country had formed and sent to the front tank and fighter plane units. The people of Tajikistan had also contributed money and foodstuffs, such as grain, to the effort. The victory over fascism was of particular importance today, when the world was facing new threats. The international community must ease tensions and avert conflict through peaceful means, in line with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA (Kazakhstan) said the many that had fought in the Second World War had saved mankind from the scourge of fascism. Almost every family of the Soviet Union had been affected. It was important to recognize that the victory had been achieved not just by force of arms, but by the spirit of the people of Central European and other nations. Close to half a million sons and daughters of that region had gone to war and not retuned to their homes.
Such sacrifice underscored the meaning of patriotism for every member of the former Soviet Union. She said actions of the Kazakh heroes were known far beyond the boarders of the Soviet Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). There was a need to recognize the heroism of the women who had fought and died to liberate Europe and free the world. Workers also needed to be recognized for the immeasurable contributions that were made to the war effort “with hands, with shovels and with spades”. The memory of the destructive consequences of the War had led the Kazakh Government to reject nuclear weapons and to work with others in the region to create a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central Asia. The War had revealed the fragility of life on Earth and had opened everyone’s eyes to the need to preserve peace.
YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine) said that, today, his country was marking a great day in its history, a day of glory and a triumph of justice. At the same time, it was a day of sorrow. Ukraine had paid too high a price for the victory of Second World War, having lost more than 10 million of its citizens. Ukraine had suffered severe devastation, with entire towns and villages having been reduced to ashes. More than 2 million Ukrainians had been enslaved in Nazi concentration camps. The population of the country had declined by 25 per cent. The bloodshed in the country had continued for 40 months.
Today, less than one third of those who had taken part in or witnessed the war remained, and as the world remembered all those who had stood in the way of the “brown plague” of Nazism during the brutal years of the War, he was proud of their courage, determination and unity in their opposition to evil, violence and war atrocities. Ukraine was resolved to prevent the recurrence of such catastrophes, he said.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan) said the Second World War had been a great tragedy, which demonstrated the destructive consequences of tyranny and victory was achieved through unprecedented solidarity among nations. It was with particular pride that he pointed out Azerbaijan’s significant contribution to the overall victory. From 700,000 to 800,000 Azerbaijanis had fount on the battlefront, as well as in partisan detachments and anti-fascist resistance movements, and about half a million died. In addition, Azerbaijan’s oil had supplied about 70 per cent of the needs of the Soviet army.
He said the lessons of the victory over fascism were of current relevance in view of the importance of effectively addressing the major threats and challenges to today’s international peace and security, which were undermining the national unity and stability of States. Regrettably, due to the failure of individual States to fulfil their most basic responsibilities, as well as the collective inadequacies of international institutions, over the years since the end of the Second World War efforts towards a peaceful, just and prosperous world had not always been consistent and successful.
He said the “conspicuous silence” in certain instances, including in particular with regard to wars of aggression, foreign occupations and ethnic cleansings, served to generating mutual mistrust and reinforcing the perceptions of double standards and military strength in international relations. Today, more than ever, there was need to unite efforts and speak with one voice against aggressive nationalism, international terrorism, extremism, racial discrimination, intolerance and insatiable annexationist aspirations, which he declared presented a profound challenge to the principles and ideals of peace, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
NURBEK JEENBAEV (Kyrgyzstan) said the great victory of the Second World War had been achieved by the efforts of the people of many countries. Never had more victims fallen in honour of their respective homeland, but the unity of all people in all countries had led to victory. Kyrgyz soldiers had been recognized as “heroes of the Soviet Union”. Providing some historical perspective, he said that from the beginning of the war, Kyrgyz men had fought on the front. At home, however, they had been replaced in agriculture and industry by women and youth, who also needed to be recognized for the contributions they had made. In the very near future, the world would mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, a unique organization, which had been born out of the ashes of the War. Kyrgyzstan believed that the new challenges the world faced required a renewed commitment to promote the principles of the United Nations, he said.
MURAD ASKAROV (Uzbekistan) paid tribute to all those that had lost their lives on the respective fronts of the War. In 1941, Uzbekistan’s population had only been 6 million. Yet, some 1.6 million men had been drafted to the front and about 400,000 of those had been killed fighting to save the world. The victory had cost Uzbekistan a great deal.
Moreover, ancient Uzbek cities had served as medical treatment centres for more than 1 million Soviet soldiers. Some 2 million refugees had sought safe haven there, and a great many Uzbek families had taken in and educated as many as 10 children. The President of Uzbekistan planned to give medals of victory to the elderly veterans of the War. It was significant to note that the United Nations had been created in the wake of the Second World War and the principles of the Organization should serve to ensure that such a war never occurred again.
GAREN NAZARIAN (Armenia) said that, as the world remembered the tens of millions of soldiers and civilians who died in the Second World War and as it mourned the lives lost, everyone owed a debt of gratitude to the nations that fought for liberty and peace. He noted that, although small in numbers, Armenia was one of those nations and played a large role in the achievement of triumph over fascism. Approximately 600,000 Armenians had been drafted into the army from June 1941 to May 1945, with 300,000 fighting in the war. More than 200,000 Armenians had lost their lives.
In honour of the valour and sacrifice of those of his countrymen and women who achieved victory over hatred and racism with their blood, his Government was paying special attention to projects involving the education of youth about the history of wars, its lessons, crimes against humanity and genocide. In that regard, also, today’s commemoration would be incomplete, if he, in his role as Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, didn’t pay tribute to all the women that served in the army, as well as all those women who stayed behind and worked tirelessly at the factories, farms, hospitals and schools, mobilized resources to defend humanity’s common principles of family values, freedom and patriotism, and by doing so, served as beacons of hope for the possibility of a better future.
He said time had long come to honour heroes not only with speeches, but also with concrete actions. In his view, remembrance, attention and care were the essential parts of the social strategy with respect to veterans. In that regard, the Armenian Government and the National Assembly had recently enacted new legislation to further expand their benefits, including those related to financial, medical and transportation needs. He urged the international community to recommit itself to studying the lessons of the past and to the principles of peaceful settlement of conflicts around the world. That commitment was the best way to pay tribute to those that had fought.
ALEXANDRU CJUBA (Republic of Moldova) said that, while the end of the Second World War had been marked by a common victory against a common enemy, it had also become a common value for humankind, which needed to be kept in the memory of the nations and bring them together in the face of new challenges and threats. Sadly, the international community had come to realize the need for a system of collective security for ensuring international peace through the death of millions of people. Such a horrible tragedy should not be forgotten.
He said the anniversary of the end of the Second World War held a special significance for the United Nations. Keeping in mind the lessons of the history, the Organization had to reaffirm the purposes and principles enshrined in its Charter and spare no efforts in preventing and resolving conflicts by peaceful means, strengthening its capacities in peacebuilding and the consolidation of peace, and promoting democratic values. To that end, it was in the interest of humanity to further strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations as the central element in collective security and peace, he added.
WITOLD SOBKÓW (Poland), noted that his country had been the first to be attacked militarily by Nazi forces in the most horrific war in human history, and it had lost more than 6 million citizens. Poland had a prominent place in the anti-Nazi coalition, and its contribution was the largest next to that of the Soviet Union, the United States and the United Kingdom. Poland was the first country to actively oppose Nazi aggression, he said.
In paying tribute to all the soldiers from the Russian Federation, Belarus and other nations who had fought in the Red Army, and in grieving for the millions of nameless victims who had fought with sacrifice and no fear, he also reminded the meeting that the victory of the Second World War was also the work of many other nations, including Poland. As the world remembered the lives lost, the countries destroyed and the horror and senselessness of it all, it would also be recalled that the United Nations was born out of the experience of the War and, to that end, the international community should uphold the notion held by the people who witnessed the war — the firm resolve to “never let this happen again”, he stated.
ALEJANDRO WOLFF (United States) said that, today, the world paused to commemorate those that had fought and lost their lives for freedom. It was also a time to remember the origins of the United Nations amid the ashes and smoke of the Second World War. “We join together today to remember and also to reaffirm the shared goal of a world free from want, oppression and fear,” he said, stressing that for all the unimaginable sacrifices of the Allied forces and the high prices paid by those whose nations had been occupied, everyone should be aware that the Second World War had been fought out of the purest necessity.
At that time, the world had faced far more than a rival Power; it had faced a rival view of humanity, he continued. That view had been one based on conquest and subjugation; one that despised the existence of a people and one that contravened the very rights and freedoms for which the United States had long stood. Sixty-five years later, the United States joined others in hailing the victory of the great wartime alliance that had defeated tyranny. It also recognized that former foes had become lasting allies on the international scene. At the same time, today was also an opportunity to recall that, just as fascism could not be defeated by any one nation, “we face a new generation of challenges that require global solutions”. He called on the international community to stand together against war, aggression, disease, terrorism, Holocaust denial, intolerance, bigotry, poverty and despair. All nations should work together to create a world that saw all people as truly equal.
He cautioned that people still faced threats to security and stability. The enemies were different and the ideologies had changed. Modern threats would require time, tolerance and cooperation to overcome. He also urged nations to work together to stem the tide of nuclear peril and to instead help extend the reach of hope and prosperity throughout the world. All nations should resist the creatures of division, hatred and extremism. They must defend the rights that all people had, but which so many could not exercise.
If the Second World War and the heroes that had fought it had taught the world anything, it was that human beings were capable of not just unimaginable cruelty, but unimaginable bravery. With that in mind, he urged everyone to listen to the stories being told by veterans about the battles they had fought to ensure that people they would perhaps never know could live lives without fear. He paid the highest tribute to all those who had struggled and fought beside the United States, and extended his Government’s abiding thanks to all those who stood for human rights, human dignity and human freedom.
LI BAODONG (China) said China had been one of the main battlefields of the anti-fascist war, suffering some 35 million military and civilian casualties. In the face of the war, more than 50 countries, China included, had formed an anti-fascist united front. The victory of the world in the anti-fascist war marked a great triumph of “justice over evil, light over darkness and progressiveness over reactionary forces”. It had saved human civilization. Noting that history was a textbook, he implored the international community to never forget the suffering inflicted on mankind by that barbaric and bloody war, and instead cherish the peace and reconciliation more dearly, in addition to taking concrete action to maintain international peace and security.
He pointed out that, even though it had been 65 years since the end of the Second World War, the ghost of Nazism still lingered, and he urged international vigilance, stressing that past experience, if not forgotten, was a guide to the future. “Only by drawing lessons from the past can we avoid the recurrence of historical tragedies and save the future generations from the scourge of war,” he asserted.
Continuing, he observed that it was the victory of the world in the anti-fascist war that had prompted the founding of the United Nations and the formulation of the United Nations Charter and other basic norms governing international relations. Over the past 65 years, the United Nations had contributed significantly to international peace, common development and protection of human rights. The past 65 years had also witnessed sea changes in the world. In the face of various global threats and challenges, the Organization had a more important role to play, he said, and in that regard, he urged Member States to uphold and maintain the authority and role of the Organization and its Security Council, and strive for a brighter future for the entire humanity.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the United Nations had been born out of “the most devastating conflict ever witnessed in history” and created mainly to save successive generations from the scourge of war. Maintaining peace and security remained one of its core functions. However, it was meant to be, and was, much more. It had become the most powerful instrument at the disposal of the international community for the promotion of a broad set of values, principles, norms and institutions in the service of peace, sustainable development and human rights. For millions of people, it had been and still continued to be the difference between life and death.
She said that, while it was true that not all of the expectations of 1945 had been met, and continued efforts were needed, including as a tribute to the millions who had sacrificed their lives in the Second World War, that should not however efface the unique and irreplaceable role that the United Nations played and would continue to play in so many domains. It was to those who had perished in that war, to those whom the Organization had helped to save since then and also those whom the international community had sadly failed to save that the international community should be held accountable. “For them, we must all renew our commitment to the purposes and principles of this Organization”, she added.
GABRIELA SHALEV (Israel) said the victims of the Second World War had sacrificed their lives so that humanity prevailed over madness and hope over hate, and Israel paid eternal homage to those men and women who had saved the world “during humanity’s darkest hour”. In remembering the victims for whom redemption never came, she said one such victim was Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jewish woman, writer and thinker who had been murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. She had written: “Somebody else will carry on from where my life has been cut short. And that is why I must try to live a good and faithful life to my last breath. In this way, those who come after me do not have to start all over again.”
She said Etty’s words were a powerful reminder of the path to be taken so that the sacrifice of those who had fought and those who had died would never be in vain. Those words were a reminder to honour their legacy by protecting a world they had fought to create; and a reminder to stand up to tyrants, despots and all those who sought to choke the human spirit. “Those words remind us to act immediately and with all our might, lest it be too late, as it were for tens of millions of people in that dreadful war,” she stated.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that, some 65 years ago, peace had been won when one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of humankind had ended. Today’s commemoration was an opportunity to commemorate those that had sacrificed their lives to save the world from tyranny. It was also a chance to reaffirm the need to ensure a world that was forever free of hatred, xenophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism and all forms of exclusion.
The birth of the United Nations, in the wake of the War, had led to the recognition of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as the cornerstones of a stable and peaceful world. “Yet the world had continued to change, and we must not rest on the assumption that a peace will always be assured,” he continued. Indeed, intra-State conflicts, pandemics, organized crime and terrorism were among a raft of new and emerging threats and challenges that the United Nations had not been created to manage. That was why it was important to remain vigilant. “If we want to remain faithful to the victims and heroes of the War, we must remain true to the ideals of the Charter,” he said, also calling on all nations to honour the promises that had been made at the end of the War.
MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom) said that, as the world remembered the end of one war, so it also remembered those whose lives were still threatened by conflict, those who longed to, but could not return to their homes, who still sought or mourned for loved ones taken from them by fighting. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to working through the United Nations to redress such injustices and ensure lasting peace.
It was often said that, now more than ever, the world was threatened by problems on a global scale, from poverty and inequality to nuclear proliferation, from climate change to terrorism, from pandemic disease to ethnic cleansing and genocide, he said. Many too recognized that security could not be maintained without helping to encourage development; development could not be expected to occur where people were threatened by insecurity; and societies shouldn’t be expected to remain secure and prosperous without respect for human rights and the rule of law.
He said that, as the millions of men, women and children who had died in the Second World War and the courage of those who had come together to fight hatred and extremism were remembered, so too should the Member Sates reaffirm their commitment to the Organization born out of the devastation left in its wake. “We the members of the United Nations made a commitment to ensuring peace and security, to delivering social progress and better standards of life, to supporting fundamental human rights, to promoting justice and respect for the law across the world,” he added. Each year at this commemoration, the world community should restate its conviction to those principles.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) began by acknowledging that the outbreak of the Second World War remained linked with the name of his country, stating that it was Germany that had brought “unspeakable suffering” upon its neighbours and, as a consequence, also upon its own citizens. “I stand before you today to reaffirm that my country has accepted its responsibility for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany. This responsibility we will never abdicate,” he declared.
Also remembered today were the soldiers of the allied forces — Americans, Soviets, British and French — who had sacrificed their lives to liberate Europe from the inhumanity and tyranny of the Nazi regime. Following the end of what he described as the “bloodiest and deadliest conflict” that humankind had ever known, the western part of his country had been presented with a unique opportunity for a fresh start, culturally and politically, built on the cornerstones of democracy, human dignity and human rights, he said. In 1989, after four decades of renewed oppression, the citizens of East Germany and his country’s Eastern European neighbours had successfully initiated a peaceful revolution in order to partake in those values as well.
Referring to the statement of the European Union delivered earlier by the representative of Spain, which recalled how the project of European integration had successfully implemented a “utopian vision of peace” on a continent ravaged by centuries of bloody confrontation, he reaffirmed Germany’s commitment to further deepening European integration. Also, reconciliation with the Russian Federation and other States that had gained their independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union was of special significance for Germany, considering the enormous price their peoples had paid during the War. Also, in view of the suffering of the Baltic States, Germany had always felt an obligation to strongly support their integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.
Continuing, he said Germany’s moral responsibility for the Holocaust, “this despicable crime against humanity”, entailed a particular obligation for his country towards the State of Israel, and their relationship “will always be a special one”. On the creation of the United Nations out of the ruins of the Second World War, he expressed gratitude that Germany had been given the opportunity to take part in that unique, challenging and indispensable project in San Francisco to repair the fabric of international relations and to provide the world with tools to peacefully manage the world’s affairs, in order to prevent global catastrophes like that War. “We remain committed to supporting the world organization in all its fields of activity. The international community can count on us,” he added.
In many parts of the world success had not been attained in achieving the vision of saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war, as vividly described in the preamble to the United Nations Charter, he said. Those aspirations could be achieved. The international community could build a safer, more just and more prosperous world, overcome the challenges of poverty, disease, conflict, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and climate change, if the lessons of the past were learned. The legacy of the horrors of the Second World War, the legacy of the countless victims, committed and commanded the international community to strive to attain those common goals together, he added.
FEODOR STARČEVIĆ (Serbia) said the causes of the War and the Nazi ideology at its core could be traced to the racist and genocidal nature of fascism, as well as to the unreasonable compromises that had been made during the period of the Nazi regime’s emergence and rise. Lessons of the 1939 Munich Agreement still had meaning today, despite the passage of more than six decades. He went on to say that, even though the freedom-lovers had found the strength to join and destroy that evil threat, the War had cost the lives of some 60 million people, including those Jews, Roma, Slavs and other ethnic or racial groups that had been specifically targeted in the name of creating a “pure race”.
He said that, 65 years later, the international community had gathered to remember the horrors of the War and mourn the many innocent victims, and that today was also a day of liberation and victory for all those who fought against fascism in all countries. Serbia had fought in, and suffered from, both World Wars. As a part of the then Yugoslav State, Serbia had taken part in the anti-fascist struggle from the very beginning, leading to an enormous number of casualties. “Our forefathers fought for freedom and human rights and for the universal values of modern civilization [and] today, Serbia is a democratic country strongly opposed to any violence or extremism,” he declared. The international system had changed dramatically since 1945 and many principles on which the United Nations had been founded were being tested. That was why every effort must be made to increase respect for international law and the fundamental principles of the Charter. That was the only way to bolster peace, stability and prosperity for all.
LE LUONG MINH (Viet Nam) said that his country, which had sacrificed the lives of millions of its people in the struggle for liberation, and which had benefited from the victory to rise to independence and freedom after nearly a century under foreign domination, joined others in paying tribute to all those who had fought to bring and end to the Second World War. While celebrating that victory, however, it was important to recognize that, even after the War had ended and the United Nations had been founded, many peoples had and were continuing to suffer from conflict and injustice. Moreover, humankind continued to face the danger of extinction because of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. “It is our task today to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our Organization so that it can truly serve as a protector of international peace and security and a promoter of friendly relations among nations for development and progress,” he declared.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said that, without the victory against Nazism and fascism, there would not be a United Nations, the key place for international cooperation, multilateralism and where all members sought to strengthen world peace and security. It was the victory over the evil of Nazism that had permitted the creation of the United Nations, based on principles of equality of peoples and human beings.
He said that victory, however, should not be considered as a victory of some particular States against other States. It should be seen as a victory for all nations and people against ideologies which supported and encouraged intolerance between human beings and communities by using their nationality, ethnicity, religion or colour of skin. “Fortunately, the world recognized the evil called Nazism and fascism and raised a merciless, heavy combat against [it],” he stated, pointing out that his country was proud to be one of the founding members of the United Nations, along with the other successor States of the former Yugoslavia.
Pointing out that some of the largest military battles during the Second World War had taken place on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s territory, he said many compatriots had given their lives for the ideals of humanity during that War. Unfortunately, 65 years after that victory, there were “forces” that fought the universal values of democracy, human rights ad fundamental freedoms, defended by the United Nations, he said. In the past decades, peace efforts across the world had failed too many times, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that had suffered immensely for the cause of the victory of anti-fascism, had had to suffer once again in 1990. He said it was not enough to say that such an evil must never be allowed to happen again. While the past could not be changed, he believed the future could be influenced and said that action to prevent future tragedies had to be taken now.
PEDRO NÚÑEZ MOSQUERA (Cuba) said the Second World War was the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. Many lives had been lost, millions of people had been wounded and numerous families had been torn apart. The heroic acts of the peoples of the former Soviet Republics, and others, would forever be etched on the pages of history and should forever be remembered by all. Indeed, the brutality of the Nazi regime should show all people that war and domination were never the answer. The best tribute that the world could pay to the fallen would be to reaffirm respect for the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, he said.
DALIUS ČEKUOLIS (Lithuania) said the War had been an enormous tragedy that had left its scars across Europe and the globe. It had been a victory over conquest and fascism, but while one part of Europe had been celebrating victory, his part of the world had been suffering under the brutal grip of Soviet communism. Only in 1990 had it gained its independence and begun its march towards democracy.
He said the commemoration of the end of the Second World War must include an honest and thorough debate on the causes and lasting impacts of that conflict. Indeed, history must be a part of the process of reflection to ensure that real lessons were drawn “from this most bloody page in history”. The actions of both the Nazi and Stalinist totalitarian regimes must be discussed. “It is our common duty to keep alive the memory of the tragic cost of what was needed to restore freedom and democracy,” he continued. The memory of the victims of the War should inspire all to work harder to secure freedom and dignity and to prevent such tragedies from ever occurring again.
RANKO VILOVIĆ (Croatia) said his country had been one of those most affected by the War, as large scale military operations had been carried out there and a puppet regime had been created that had committed unspeakable atrocities. The population had recognized the lay of the land and had quickly organized against the occupation. By the end of 1941, liberated territories had been established. Yet, the price of that fight for freedom had been high. Croatia was, nevertheless, proud of the key role it had played in the ant-fascist coalition. The creation of the United Nations was also something to be proud of and the Organization’s purposes and principles must be reinforced to fight against racism, bigotry and prejudice.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana) said the commemoration of the victims of the Second World War provided an opportunity to reflect on the horrors and cruelty inflicted upon a generation forced to endure tyranny, occupation and the violent abuse of their human rights and fundamental freedoms; on the millions who had died and the millions more who had suffered the pain and anguish of loss — loss of limb, of family, of friends and so much more. Among the countless families touched by that tragedy had been the compatriots of his country, then still a colony.
He said that the end of that war had ushered in a new era of renewed hope; with the birth of the United Nations and a determination enshrined in its Charter “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. Sixty-five years on, that pledge was yet to be fulfilled, he observed. “We have seen too many wars and untold suffering since. The agenda for peace remains unfinished. Equally so the agenda for development! And human rights abuses are all too frequent. The cause of a better world beckons still,” he said. In commemorating the victims of the War, therefore, it was Guyana’s plea for renewed resolve to work together, nations small and great, to translate the hopes for peace, development and human rights into tangible reality for all.
DRAGANA ŠCEPANOVIĆ (Montenegro) said that 65 years ago her country had celebrated the victory over fascism, and its contributions to world freedom had been clear and unequivocal. His country had long been committed to peace and democracy. Toady was an opportunity for all nations to commit to promoting fundamental freedoms and human rights, as well as to creating a better world for all.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said it was imperative to remember all the victims of the War and pay homage to their memory. It was also imperative to use the opportunity to reaffirm the principles of the United Nations Charter, especially that document’s call to save future generations from the scourge of war. He also said that, while the sacrifices of European and other Western countries were rightly being commemorated, it was also necessary to recall huge sacrifices and contributions of other nations like his own. Indeed, India had sent some 2.5 million of its sons into battle — the largest all-volunteer force ever raised up to that point — and they had participated in some of the most of crucial campaigns of the Second World War. Those sacrifices had helped ensure the world was free from fascism.
CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said there was no doubt that the Second World War had been a terrible conflict, and it was both salutary and sobering to recall that it was the worst of several unnecessary, manmade global catastrophes that had made the twentieth century one of the most bitter that humanity had ever known. Many voices admonished world leaders not to forget.
He said the terms for remembering and refusing war were endless, as were appeals for peace and peaceful coexistence among nations. Those would be based on the same values that had to guide relations among individuals: truth, justice, forgiveness, active solidarity and freedom. Along with those values came certain indispensable factors for building a renewed international order: the freedom and territorial integrity of each nation; defence of the rights of minorities; an equitable sharing of the Earth’s resources; an effective plan for disarmament; fidelity to agreements undertaken; and an end to religious discrimination and persecution.
Noting that the United Nations had been born out of the ashes of a world war singular for the untold outrages to the dignity of the human person, he said he believed the inseparability between peace and respect for the rights and dignity of the person was now accepted as self-evident, universal and inalienable. At the international level, that common dignity also determined the just measure of national interests. Respect for human dignity was the deepest ethical foundation in the search for peace and in the construction of international relations that corresponded to the requirement of common humanity, he added.
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