It is a great pleasure to greet all the good friends of the United Nations who have gathered for this observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
I welcome in particular the Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans who have joined this solemn ceremony.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Courage is a rare and precious commodity.
Today, we celebrate those who had the courage to care.
Throughout the Second World War, Jews, Roma and Sinti, Soviet prisoners of war and others who failed to conform to Hitler’s perverted ideology of Aryan perfection were systematically murdered in death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.
But some were able to avoid the slaughter.
They escaped because a few brave souls risked their lives and their families to rescue Jews and other victims of persecution from almost certain death.
Some sheltered the intended victims in their homes; others helped families to obtain safe passage.
Some of the accounts of the rescuers have achieved iconic prominence. But many are known only to those whose lives were saved.
This year’s observance is meant to give those unsung heroes the regard they deserve.
I thank the Righteous Among the Nations Programme at Yad Vashem, which is celebrating its 50th year, for identifying and rewarding them.
The Holocaust and the United Nations programme has produced an education package on the rescuers that will be used in classrooms around the world.
I also congratulate another crucial partner, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on its 20th anniversary.
Its theme of “Never Again: What You Do Matters” resonates deeply.
Acts of genocide illustrate the depths of evil to which individuals and whole societies can descend.
But the examples of the brave men and women we celebrate today also demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good, even during the darkest of days.
On this International Day, let us remember all the innocent people who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
And let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care – the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity.
Their example is as relevant today as ever.
In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant.
Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.