DPI, France and the Russian Federation
observe "Kristallnacht" at New York Headquarters

(7 & 8 November 2012)

One of the ways in which the Department of Public Information (DPI) increases the impact of its outreach programmes is to partner with United Nations Member States. By working together on issues of common concern, such as combatting hatred and promoting human rights, the Organization can reach more people with a unified message. 

Last week, the Department and the Permanent Missions of France and the Russian Federation to the United Nations observed the 74th anniversary of “Kristallnacht”, which many historians consider to be the beginning of the Holocaust.  

UN Photo/Mark Garten

“Kristallnacht”, also known as the night of broken glass, was a pogrom or series of attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses in Germany and parts of Austria that took place on 9 and 10 November 1938. Thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps or murdered on the spot.

To mark the historic event, on 7 November The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme presented a panel discussion titled “The Holocaust by Bullets: Uncovering the Reality of Genocide”. Held in the ECOSOC Chamber at United Nations Headquarters, the event focused on the groundbreaking work of Father Patrick Desbois and his team of researchers from Yahad-In Unum (YIU) who in recent years have identified over 800 extermination sites in Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine. Their work has helped countless families understand what happened to their loved ones.

“Our goal is three-fold: I want to give back to the families, give back to the Jewish community, and fight against those that deny the Holocaust”, explained Father Desbois in response to a question about the impact of his work. “The deniers are a strong influence on young people.”

In his opening remarks, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, Under-Secretary-General of Communications and Public Information, underscored the importance of Yahad-In Unum’s work in restoring dignity to the victims. "I commend Father Desbois and Yahad-In Unum for their tireless efforts to recover the dignity of the Jewish and Roma victims of this brutality. By identifying their unmarked mass graves, you have set history on its proper course. No longer will these mothers, fathers and children remain forgotten. No longer silent, their bodies will remain testimony to the truth".

Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal (left), Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, delivers his opening statement at the event. At right is Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the UN.

Ambassador Martin Briens, Deputy Permanent Representative of France, reminded participants of the dangers of hate. “It is especially important for France to be present here today because our country experienced a tragedy this year”, said the French ambassador. “We must show no weakness in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and terrorism and we must break these destructive cycles as swiftly as possible”.

Also participating in the event were Andrej Umansky, a historian at Yahad-In Unum; and Gillian Kitley, Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide,  who touched on the historical aspects of the Holocaust, and the role of the international community in preventing genocide. The discussion was moderated by Pamela Falk of CBS News.

The event can be viewed here on webcast.

On 8 November 2012, the Department's Holocaust Programme partnered with the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in a second event which examined the Holocaust in the German-occupied Soviet territory and the status of Holocaust education in Russia today.Department of Public Information held an event entitled 'The Holocaust by Bullets: Uncovering the Reality of Genocide' to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht. (Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Moderated by Ramu Damodaran, Deputy Director for Partnerships and Public Engagement of the Department’s Outreach Division, the event featured the work of Professor Ilya Altman, who was instrumental in introducing the Holocaust in curricula in Russia in the early 1990s. Until that time, little had been written about Nazi crimes in the former Soviet Union.

In his remarks, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation Sergey N. Karev explained how Professor Altman and his team have helped demystify the horrors of the Second World War.

“As you know, the Russian Mission to the UN is one of the co-organizers of today's discussion, devoted to the study of little-known pages of the horrors of World War II in the former Soviet Union, which was occupied by Nazi troops. For our country, which lost in the years of the war, more than 20 million of its citizens, it is also a matter of honour and duty. It is our common duty to those who gave their lives for the triumph of the ideals of peace, humanity, human rights and dignity", he told participants.


UN News Centre: Marking anniversary of Kristallnacht Pogrom, UN holds discussions with renowned historians

Press Release: Father Patrick Desbois to Present New Findings on Treatment of Roma People during World War II at UN Kristallnacht Event (2 November 2012)

Press Release: United Nations, Permanent Mission of Russian Federation Host Discussion on Holocaust education in Russia Featuring Renowned Holocaust Historian (2 November 2012)