2009 Holocaust Remembrance Week

Calendar of Events | Secretary-General's Message Statements | Media Coverage | UNICs





Calendar of Events

Mon, 26 Jan | Tue, 27 Jan | Wed, 28 Jan | Thu, 29 Jan 


“Holocaust Remembrance and Education”


Monday, 26 January 2009

Exhibition “Roads to death: The Pharrajimos in Hungary”

An exhibition on the persecution and murder of the Roma and Sinti, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Hungary to the United Nations.

Exhibition “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race”

This exhibition shows how the Nazi regime, with the support of doctors and scientists, aimed to change the genetic makeup of the population through measures known as "racial hygiene" or "eugenics". The categories of persons and groups regarded as biologically threatening to the health of the nation were expanded to include Jews, Roma, the disabled and other minorities. These policies resulted in forced sterilization and murder, and ultimately in the Holocaust.


Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Holocaust Memorial Ceremony

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". 

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." 

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". 

H.E. Ms. 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". 

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!". 

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". 

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. 

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.


Panel Discussion “The Holocaust-The Rescued and the Rescuers”

The discussion was organized by B’nai B’rith International, with Kurt and Margarete Goldberger, survivors; Rachel Ostreicher Bernheim, Chair/CEO of the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States; Paul Shapiro, Director of the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations.


Play Reading "Irena’s Vow"

"Irena’s Vow", a reading of a play by Dan Gordon, with Tovah Feldshuh and directed by Michael Parva.   Irena's vow is the story of a Polish Catholic woman who risks her life to protect the lives of twelve Jewish refugees whom she secretly took under her care while working as head housekeeper for a prominent German major. The reading is presented by The Directors Company and The Invictus Theatre Company.  The event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United States to the United Nations, the Permanent Mission of Poland to United Nations, and the Polish Cultural Institute.


Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project Book Signing

Mrs. Frances Irwin presented and signed copies of her memoir included in the volume titled Stolen Youth: Five Women's Survival in the Holocaust at the UN Book Shop. Every January in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, volumes from the Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project are on display in the Public Lobby and for sale in the Book Shop. Mrs. Jeannie Rosensaft, one of the editors of the memoirs, discussed the Project, which is an initiative of Nobel Prize laureate and United Nations Messenger of Peace Elie Wiesel, and Menachem Rosensaft, Chairman of the Project's Editorial Board. Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, joined the Project in 2004, which has published eleven books with 17 survivors' memoirs to date. 

Thursday, 29 January 2009

DPI/NGO briefing on "The Sephardic Jews in Greece: the Untold Story"

From early in its history, Thessaloniki embraced the Jews who sought its hospitality. For more than 20 centuries, the city has been—literally and figuratively- a safe harbour for the itinerant and persecuted Jews from all over the world. As a result it was honoured with the title “La Madre de Israel,” [or “mother of cities amongst the people of Israel”], as it was the most populous city of Sephardic Jewry in the world. Thessaloniki lost 94 percent of its Jews in the Holocaust. Today only some 1,200 remain and their story is little known. The Briefing focused on their story and featured personal accounts of some of those who survived the Holocaust in Thessaloniki.

 Screening of documentary film "Watermarks"

"Watermarks" tells the story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah, which was located in Vienna, Austria. In defiance of Hitler, the women courageously refused to take part in the Berlin Olympics in 1936. In 1938, the Nazis shut down the club, but the swimmers managed to flee the country before the war broke out. Sixty-five years later, director Yaron Zilberman meets the members of the women’s swim team in their homes around the world, and arranges for them to have a reunion in their old swimming pool in Vienna, a journey that evokes memories of youth, femininity and strengthens lifelong bonds. 





Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information

H.E. Mr. iguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd session of the General Assembly

H.E. Ms. Gabriela Shalev, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations

Leonid Rozenberg, veteran of the Second World War

Ruth Glasberg Gold, Holocaust Survivor

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Holocaust Survivor & Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council



Secretary-General's Message


Today we remember the millions of victims of the Nazis -- nearly one third of the Jewish people and countless other minorities -- who suffered atrocious acts of discrimination, deprivation, cruelty and murder.

New initiatives in Holocaust remembrance and education have given us an authentic basis for hope. That hope is the theme of this year's observance.

But we can and must do more if we are to make that hope a reality.

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.

Thank you very much.




Media Coverage


At Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, Secretary-General Says World Must Reaffirm Faith in Human Dignity, ‘Our Moral Strength – Even Amid History’s Darkest Chapters’ 

United Nations to Observe Holocaust Remembrance Day 27 January; Events Include Memorial Ceremony, Exhibits, Film Screening 

Secretary-General, in Message on Day, Says ‘Let Us Remember’ Holocaust Victims by Reaffirming Faith in Dignity, Equal Rights of All Members of Human Family

United Nations Department of Public Information Launches ‘Footprints for Hope’ Project to Encourage Education About Holocaust Worldwide

Ban calls on world to fight Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and bigotry 

Memory of Holocaust must spur action to combat genocide, stresses UN rights chief 

Holocaust has vital lessons for today, says Ban



2009 Holocaust Remembrance Activities Around The World


The global network of United Nations information centres (UNICs), United Nations Information Service (UNIS) and United Nations Offices (UNO) observed the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust in 2009 in partnership with civil society groups and Government representatives.


Memorial Ceremonies

Solemn ceremonies were held in Asmara, Baku, Bucharest, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Nairobi, Panama City, Pretoria, and Washington, D.C. The audiences of these events were composed with: representatives of governments and the civil society, non-governmental organizations, members of the diplomatic community, members of the Jewish community, students, scholars, and representatives of UN agencies. Many of these events were organized at the highest level of Government. For example, the Israeli and German Ambassadors participated in the ceremony organized by UNIC Nairobi in collaboration with the Israeli Embassy. Mr. Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, Chair of the International Task Force for Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, participated in the memorial event organized by UNIS Vienna.

UNIC Panama organized a solemn ceremony with the Israeli Embassy in Panama, the German Embassy and the Legislative Assembly. UNIC Pretoria organized a ceremony in partnership with the Johannesburg Holocaust Centre. UNICs senior representatives in Asunción, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Washington D.C. and UNRIC Germany participated in commemorative ceremonies organized by governments and non-governmental organizations.


Footprints for Hope

UNIC Dar Es Salaam participated in the Footprints for Hope Project, the newest initiative of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. Local students donated old footwear and painted them with messages of hope. The shoes were exhibited in the UNIC library for two weeks and then moved to the participating school. 

Educational Activities

The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme organized a videoconference on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. The event connected five francophone UN Information Centres (Brazzaville, Bujumbura, Dakar, Lomé, and Yaoundé), the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Kigali, the Memorial de la Shoah hosted by UNESCO in Paris, and the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme in New York Headquarters.

Educational activities were organized in Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Lomé, Ouagadougou, Prague, Pretoria, Tokyo and UNO Tashkent.  UNIC Ouagadougou, in partnership with the University of Ouagadougou, organized a conference on the "Strategies to prevent genocide". UNIC Prague, in partnership with the Jewish Museum Prague, organized a series of educational programmes, which involved more than 250 students from secondary and high schools and lectures by Holocaust survivors. UNIC Pretoria organized an event in partnership with the School of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Pretoria.  UNIC Tokyo organized a workshop in partnership with a Japanese NGO who gave a presentation on the story of Hannah's suitcase. UNO Tashkent initiated outreach events at selected high schools of Tashkent.



Exhibitions commemorating the Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust were organized in Antananarivo, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Mexico City, Nairobi, Ouagadougou, Port of Spain, Prague, Vienna, and Tbilisi. UNIS Vienna hosted the exhibit "Vienna's Conscience- Close-Ups and Conversations after Hitler", based on the eponymous book. UNIC Ouagadougou, in partnership with five local high schools, organized an exhibit composed with posters, films, books and brochures about the Holocaust. Held in the premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the exhibit welcomed 3,421 visitors, including Government officials, students, members of NGOs and Associations, members of armed forces, and media. UNIC Prague hosted, in partnership with the Jewish Museum Prague, a special exhibit on “The Ghetto of Baluty”, a polish city where numbers of Czech Jews were transported on their way to Auschwitz.


Film screenings

UNIC Baku, Dar es Salaam, Prague, Pretoria, Windhoek, UNO Almaty and Tashkent organized special film screenings. Baku, Dar es Salaam Prague, Windhoek and Tashkent screened “Into the Arms of Strangers, Stories of the Kindertransport”. UNIC Prague showed a documentary film “Ghetto Baluty”. UNIC Pretoria screened the documentary titled "Hannah's Story" which was introduced by the film-maker in person.  UNIC Windhoek also screened the film "Testimony of the Human Spirit".


Media Outreach

Outreach to media organizations by the global network of United Nations Information Centres led to articles in the local press, radio and television in many countries, including Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Burundi, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

The solemn ceremony and the exhibition organized by the UNIC Dar es Salaam were widely covered by the media. The Director of UNIC Port of Spain was interviewed on TV and radio about their photo and video exhibit. The Director of UNIC Rio de Janeiro gave an interview about the observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was aired by the cable television channel of the Israeli Federation of Rio de Janeiro. The solemn ceremony by UNIS Vienna also received a lot of media attention. UNIC Lomé produced a radio programme with Radio Lome (audience 2.5 million) on the Holocaust.

The message of the Secretary-General was translated into the six official languages of the United Nations, as well as many local languages including Azeri, Czech, Danish, Finnish, German, Greek, Hindi, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Singhalese, Swedish, and Tamil.