On January 27, 1945 Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by soldiers of the First Ukrainian Front, the 322nd Rifle Division of the 60th Army, under the command of Marshal Ivan S. Konev. Soviet troops had been pushing westward in pursuit of the retreating Nazis in what was called the Vistula-Oder Offensive.
When the Soviets reached Auschwitz the Nazi Germans had already evacuated the camp. Tens of thousands of Jewish inmates were forced by their captors on a death march towards Loslau and Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia. Thousands of prisoners died along the way. Those who survived were deported to concentration camps in Germany and Austria. Only 7,500 Jewish inmates remained in Auschwitz, most of them children. Huge piles of cadavers were scattered everywhere - the remains of Jewish prisoners - men, women and children who had been murdered, or who perished of starvation and disease. These and the piles of human ashes and bone, remnants of the gas chambers were all testament to Hitler's Final Solution.
The vast network of Nazi concentration camps and death camps established throughout Europe were managed like efficient "killing factories". By the end of the war a total of about 6 million Jews had been killed by the Nazis.; half of them were Polish Jews and the remainder were Jews who had been deported from all parts of Europe - one million of them were children. Least known is the fact that Hitler also planned to eliminate ethnic Poles, and by the end of the war about 5 million Polish citizens had perished. Though many other peoples had been killed by the Nazis, the Jews and the Poles were the ones singled out for annihilation.
On November 1, 2005 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 60/7 designating January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The following is an excerpt:
Reaffirming that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice,
1. Resolves that the United Nations will designate 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust;
2. Urges Member States to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide, and in this context commends the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research;
3. Rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part;
4. Commends those States which have actively engaged in preserving those sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labour camps and prisons during the Holocaust;
5. Condemns without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur;
6. Requests the Secretary-General to establish a programme of outreach on the subject of the "Holocaust and the United Nations" as well as measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide; to report to the General Assembly on the establishment of this programme within six months from the date of the adoption of the present resolution; and to report thereafter on the implementation of the programme at its sixty-third session.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is more than a day of commemoration and memorials. It serves as a perennial reminder to every nation and citizen thereof that we are
obligated under the principals of natural law to respect one another irregardless of nationality, race, color, or creed.
The following are only excerpts of speeches made on November 1, 2005 by a few of the selected members of delegations who attended the 42nd plenary meeting of the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly. They speak about the importance of observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the urgency of educating the world about the horrors of the past - so that they do not repeat in the future. These are not words to be taken lightly.
PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
Speaker: Liu Zhongzin
(Spoke in Chinese)
"Allow me to express, on behalf of the Chinese Government and people, our profound condolences in connection with the 6 million Jewish and other victims of the Holocaust and our sincere sympathy to all the bereaved families and the survivors of the Holocaust.
"Sixty years ago, military aggressors also inflicted untold misery on Asia. Casualties in China alone reached 35 million, of which more than 300,000 died during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Like the Jewish people, the people of Asia will never forget that chapter in our history.
"Our purpose in emphasizing such an indelible memory is not to perpetuate hatred but to use history as a mirror and to look into the future. The bitter lessons of the Second World War and the tragedy of the Nazi camps have taught us that the basic values of freedom, democracy, equality, justice and peace cannot be denied.
HASEMITE KINGDOM OF JORDAN
Speaker: Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein
"Sixty years on, we live at a time when it is still difficult for the vast majority of Member States to examine their own national histories to their very limits, particularly their modern histories. And while we should continue to feel great pride in what good we find in them, we must also begin to reckon with what in our national memory is distasteful or perhaps even criminal or terrible. It is therefore extraordinary and encouraging how a few European States have started to follow the example set by Germany many years ago, in beginning a process of recovering memory and in beginning a painful and critical, although ultimately liberating self-examination where their part in the Holocaust is concerned.
"The concentration of evil found within the historical experience that is the Holocaust does, however, bring the point home for all peoples everywhere, Jewish and otherwise. And the principal lesson drawn by 100 members of the General Assembly is that if we are ever to make genocide and the like truly unthinkable in the future, not only must we squarely confront the philosophies of negation within our own socieities, where and whenever they occur, but, if we are to give true meaning to the phrase "Never again", we must also collectively support the existence of the world's only permanent judicial body designed to end impunity for the gravest of crimes - and that body is, of course, the International Criminal Court.......
Speaker: Mr. Skinner-Klée
(Spoke in Spanish)
"We are gathered here today in remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust, innocent human beings who were the victims of ethnic and racial hatred and political and social intolerance. The Shoah is the greatest horror suffered by humanity in the twentieth century: the execrable extermination of more than a third of the Jewish people, along with countless members of other minorities who died unjustly and cruelly, murdered only because they were different, only because they were not understood or tolerated.
"Thus, the constructive and peaceful co-existence of peoples depends on mutual respect and mutual
understanding. Unless there is a genuine dialogue among nations and among civilizations, ignorance will persist and the human family will continue to be threatened or once again become its own victim.
"Guatemala knows only too well the horror caused by intolerance. Guatemalans have suffered in their own flesh the maelstrom of violence that afflicted our country merely because some people professed contrary views, held different beliefs or belonged to a different ethnic or social group.
REPUBLIC OF KOREA
Speaker: Mr. Shin Kak-Soo
"Let me begin by joining other delegations in expressing our deepest sympathy in connection with the millions of victims of the Holocaust during the Second World War who were murdered because of their ethnic origins, religious faith or political beliefs, and in condemning in the strongest possible terms the horrific, inhuman crimes against humanity committed by the Nazi regime.
"It goes without saying that such a horrendous tragedy should never be allowed to recur. To our dismay, however, we cannot deny that even today we are witnessing genocide and many crimes against humanity, from Srebrenica to Kigali to Darfur. Those recent acts of genocides and crimes against humanity, still fresh in our memory, compel the international community to redouble its efforts to put in place a reliable and effective security system that deters such heinous crimes and promotes mutual understanding and tolerance among people of all ethnicities, races, cultures and nations.
"As a country that suffered greatly from atrocities committed during the Second World War, the Republic of Korea has decided to become a sponser of the draft resolution on Holocaust remembrance. We believe that proclaiming 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is a good way to ensure that the Holocaust's dreadful lessons are not forgotten. We cannot allow the memory of these crimes to fade with the passage of time.
"We also believe strongly that any attempt to deny the Holocaust as a historical reality, in full or in part, must be rejected. It takes courage to tell the truth about the past when that truth is painful or even shameful.
"....Facing up to the truth of history and learning its lessons is not a choice but an obligation. In this regard, we strongly support the draft resolution's recommendation to develop educational programmes that will teach the lessons of the Holocaust to future generations. It is the collective obligation of humanity to promote education and tolerance so that there will never again be a similar tragedy.
Speaker: Mr. Dapkiunas
(Spoke in Russian)
"The draft resolution to be adopted today is a testament to terrible grief and pain. For the people of my country, Belarus, such pain is not an alien experience; it is our pain as well. The flames of blind racial hatred and ethnic exclusion did not only claim countless victims in Belarus. The brutality of the Nazi regime and the incinerating flames of the Holocaust are seared into the soul of the people of Belarus.
"Why, 60 years after the end of the Second World War, are we still returning to this topic - not as a distant and tragic chapter of our history, but as a page in our collective life that has not yet been turned? Why do many millions of poeple throughout the world continue to experience the daily, direct and obvious threat and unbearable suffering that result from ideas of racial superiority and ethnic enmity?
" As long as we live in a world divided into "us and them", as long as we feel that the bitter lessons of history must be learned by others and not by us, as long as we do not do everything in our power to understand and welcome those who do not resemble us, the echoes of the Holocaust will continue to resound in our hearts.....
Speaker: Mr. Kuchinsky
"The Holocaust is a permanently painful subject not only for the Jewish people but for the world community as a whole. We remember the enormous suffering of those who perished in the death camps at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and many other horrific sites, where, in the name of a perverse and inhuman ideology, millions of human beings were deliberately and cruelly exterminated. Jews and gypsies, men and women, children and the elderly - the sons and daughters of different nations, including hundreds of thousands from Ukraine, became the innocent victims of a ruthless political system that caused immense losses to humankind.
"Many thought that the horrors of the Second World War - the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations that took place during the Holocaust - could never happen again. And yet they have - in Cambodia, Srebrenica, Rwanda, and most recently, in Darfur.
"In that respect, we are deeply convinced that the history of the Holocaust must be learned and extensively explained so that a similar tragedy never happens again.
"As we commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, Ukraine cannot but recall the terrible damage which intolerance, violence and aggression caused in the past.....one of the most tragic chapters in Ukraine's history, the Great Famine of 1932-33 - in Ukrainian, Holodomor, which means "death by famine". Deliberately aimed at the very core of the Ukrainian nation, the cruel campaign of terror by hunger carried out by the totalitarian Soviet regime led to the deaths of seven to 10 million innocent men, women and children.
"Ukraine will continue to do its utmost to bring the truth about Holodomor and the Holocaust to the world at large. We believe that it is high time that the international community recognized that crime as an act of genocide against the Ukrainian nation.
FEDERATIVE REPUBLIC OF BRAZIL
Speaker: Mr. Sardenberg
"The Jewish Holocaust is the paradigmatic case of genocide, a crime that until that time lacked a definition and did not allow for legal recourse. None of the Hague Conventions mentioned genocide, nor could the massacres that had taken place be properly judged or their perpetrators punished owing to the lack of a legal definition of genocide.
"Of particular historical resonance in our part of the world are the crimes committed against the indigenous peoples of the America during the colonial period and during the period when slavery was practised. It remains profoundly shocking to the conscience of mankind that those crimes could have reached such inconceivable proportions.
"The fight against the crime of genocide will only be complete when Member States adhere to and implement human rights instruments in both the domestic and the international spheres.
Speaker: Mr. Mayoral
(Spoke in Spanish)
"Collective remembrance is indispenable in world overwhelmed by the need to solve new problems and at a time when young people may think that the Holocaust was an event of history that occurred under specific political circumstances and for reasons that no longer exist. They are wrong. Faced with that possible reaction, we must realize that no country in the world can consider itself immune from a future wave of violence fuelled by intolerance, economics, religious fundamentalism, political intolerance or racial conflict, or even a combination of any of them.
"We are in a crucial moment of history when we are all called upon to make further efforts of generosity in order to face up to new challenges and threats to a future of peace based upon the respect for all persons and peoples. My country believes that task must be carried out within the collective framework of the United Nations. If we want to avoid repeating the cycle of history and avoid another Holocaust and genocide such as occurred in the last century, we must keep alive the memory of what happened, by giving the United Nations powerful tools to effectively protect human rights in all circumstances and at all times.
REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA
Speaker: Mr. Pfanzelter
"For Austria, this day is a reminder of the dark sides of our past. We feel the agony of knowing that our country lost so many of its Jewish citizens to the Holocaust. At the same time we feel the pain of realizing that far too many Austrians took part in the genocide, a crime of colossal proportions.
"Simon Wisenthal, who passed away a few weeks ago, helped us to come to terms with our past when he said, "For your benefit, learn from our tragedy". He showed us that education and information are powerful tools for preventing the tragic repetition of history.
"Today, we should all remember Simon Wiesenthal's speech to the General Assembly 10 years ago (see A/50/PV.66). He called upon the international community to warn younger generations against prejudices, especially the prejudice of racial hatred, which has led to immeasurable human suffering. Austria is conscious of its responsibility and is taking a broad spectrum of measures to fight anti-Semitism, xenophobia and other forms racism and intolerance at all levels.
"We have successfully initiated national programmes aimed at teaching our young people about the lessons of history. The young generation, representing our future, must be taught that no country and no society can achieve any degree of progress or development without respect for human rights and the dignity of each human being. That is the lesson that the memory of Auschwitz hands down from generation to generation.
VATICAN CITY - THE HOLY SEE
Speaker: Archbishop Miglore
"Remembering is a duty and a common responsibility. That is especially true in the case of the Holocaust. So, my delegation welcomes the draft resolution on Holocaust remembrance and congratulates all those that sponsored it.
"For 60 years, we have had the horror of this kind of crime before us, and yet, history has repeated itself. An international convention against that crime has not prevented the kind of thinking that leads to genocide, the violence that sparks genocide, the injsutices that make it possible or the interests that allow a genocide to be sustained over time. The twentieth century witnessed genocides, atrocities, mass killings and ethnic cleansings which, deplorably, were not confined to just one continent. As we stand before the Holocaust, it is only right that we remember and pledge to make the best collective efforts to ensure that, having now named this crime, the world's nations will recognize it for what it is and prevent it in the future.
"After the Shoah, the first step towards prevention was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many more steps forward are needed. In every country, the memory of the Holocaust must be preserved as a commitment to spare future generations such horror.
BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA
Speaker: Mrs. Nunez de Odreman
(Spoke in Spanish)
"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has participated in the adoption by consensus of resolution 60/7 and is in full agreement with the States that sponsored the resolution and endorsed the memorandum of explanation accompanying the draft resolution, which affirmed that the Holocaust constituted a systematic and barbaric attempt to annihilate an entire people in a manner and of a magnitude that has no comparison in the history of humankind.
"We must also recall other Holocaust that took place during that terrible and barbarous conflict and those which came to light at that conflict's end, all equally attributable to founding States of the Unitd Nations that were part of the coalition that defeated the Nazi Fascism exclusively at the military level around the year 1945.
"We are referring to the annihilation of the defenceless population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who were victims of a deliberate, devastating destruction by the use of nuclear weapons, without any justification, and to the silent, low-intensity daily annihilation of peoples of the world, whose adults and children are condemned to misery, hunger, ignorance and repression with no escape or hope, as a result of the exploitation and the barbarous, systematic neglect to which they have been submitted during centuries by colonialist and imperialist States and elites that were also the principal actors of the aforementioned war. The annihilation continues today, at the start of the twenty-first century, giving rise to a popular insurgency that seeks to restore justice.
"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela also shares the concern and sense of urgency with regard to establishing educational programmes to eradicate from the face of the Earth, genocide as a political act to exterminate groups of human beings or entire peoples on the unspeakable pretext of hatred, racism and the fundamentalist, obsessive and messianic blindness that characterizes religious intolerance. We call upon those States that, together with us, supported the resolution to ensure that the educational programmes proposed therein are designed, in a balanced and well-thought out manner, to put an end to holocausts and to raise global awareness of the perversion and crime against humanity that is genocide - including the genocide of the Jewish people, which deserves universal repudiation.
ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT
Speaker: Mr. Abdelaziz
"We fully share and understand the feelings of the sponsors with regard to the need for Holocaust remembrance. We have no objection to designating 27 January as a day of remembrance in connection with the Holocaust because of our firm belief that the victims of genocide, regardless of their religion or ethnic background, should not be forgotten.
"On the other hand, the resolution fails to address the responsibilities of the society in which the Holocaust was perpetrated and its socio-political and racist causes. Furthermore, we should ask ourselves why we should restrict the resolution on the Holocaust forgetting similar crimes of genocide against Christians and Muslims in Rwanda, and against Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Srebrenica, Sanski Most, Kosovo, and elsewhere.
"We are firm in our belief that the established mechanism, in accordance with the resolution, should apply to the victims of genocide as a whole, worldwide, without discrimination on the basis of religious or ethnic background. We trust that the sponsors will consider our strong reservations and reflect on how to put things back into the right perspective. We reserve the right to do so ourselves.
"We further trust that the General Assembly will attach the same importance to financing other activities in similar resolutions in full. In that context, we reserve the right to assist in the implementation of such resolutions all together, so as to ensure equal treatment for all victims of genocide, including the victims of the Holocaust.
Speaker: Ms. Ismael
"My delegation joined the consensus on the resolution on Holocaust remembrance. We condemn the Holocaust, as it constituted a systematic and barbarous attempt to annihilate an entire people in a manner and on a scale that have no parallel in human history. Yet its lessons are universal, and my delegation feels that we should draw on them. There are other events that are no less tragic which would benefit from the lessons learned from the Holocaust.
"In this connection, my delegation would have preferred operative paragraph 2 of the resolution to be broader in scope so as to include inculcating in future generations the lessons not only of the Holocaust, but also other acts of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA
Speaker: Mr. Anshor
"I am pleased to explain my delegation's position with regard to the resolution that has just been adopted. My delegation went along with its adoption on the basis of a number of understandings.
"First, we recognize that the Holocaust represents a dark episode in human civilization, whose lessons must never be forgottten if we are to save future generations from similar atrocities. However, the Holocaust is not the only human tragedy that provides such lessons. There are numerous others that send an equally strong message and warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice. Human history, whether classical or contemporary, registers a long list of human tragedies. Therefore, we would have preferred it if the sponsors, in formalizing and institutionalizing Holocaust remembrance and education within the United Nations system through the resolution, ahd given equal attention to other human tragedies.
Speaker: Mr. Ozawa
"My delegation wishes to exercise its right reply in connection with the statement made by the representative of China regarding atrocities during the Second World War in Asia. Mistakes made in our past history must be remembered. We must learn from them and resolve never to allow them to happen again. Only by learning from the past can humanity make progress in the future.
"On the occasion of the recent Asia-Africa summit in Indonesia, Prime Minister Koizumi stated,
"In the past Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. Japan squarely faces those facts of history in a spirit of humility. And with a feeling of deep remorse and hearfelt apology always engraved in mind, Japan has resolutely and consistently maintained since the end of the Second World War never to turn into a military power but to be an economic power and its principle of resolving all matters by peaceful means without recourse to the use of force.
"Japan once again states its resolve to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, in the future as well, prizing the relationship of trust it enjoys with the nations of the world."
These are very sobering words amidst a world hell-bent on destroying each other in the name of national or cultural self-preservation. While it is of utmost importance to remember the Holocaust, we must also acknowledge the horrendous genocides that have been perpetrated against other peoples since the end of World War II.
But I must add a word of caution here. The term "Holocaust" must never be appropriated to describe any other genocide. "The Holocaust" uniquely refers to the tragedy of the Jewish people, just as the word "Shoah" cannnot be used to categorize other genocides. The delegate from the Ukraine, Mr. Kuchinsky addressed this issue though indirectly, by mentioning the terrible genocide suffered by the Ukrainian people in the Great Famine of 1932-33. He did not refer to it as "the Holocaust", but rather the "Holodomor".
I strongly support this Resolution and do not approve of any attempt to alter the content of its assertions. I do however strongly recommend that the United Nations consider the idea of adopting (many) subsequent resolutions that address each genocide separately. This strategy can only serve to magnify the urgency which is needed to deal with our global conflicts. Because, when we are faced with an overwhelming plethora of United Nations resolutions on genocides, it will force us to look at the enormity of our evils - so that we can no longer bear to let it continue.
If the word "Holocaust" falls into misuse, it will become a kind of repository for the history of all the genocides of the world - past, present and (God forbid) the future. This will serve only to blur our collective vision of the past and dilute our understanding of the historic details.
I conclude this blog post with the words of Elie Wiesel: (he was a Holocaust survivor, and became a renowned author, professor, and is a Nobel Laureate.)
"Not every victim was a Jew,
but every Jew was a victim"
The Holocaust - Shame of a Nation (00:01:30m)
Please donate funds to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland so that they may preserve it as an historical site. Teams of highly qualified specialists in landmark preservation work tirelessly to preserve all the artifacts and structures on the site. Click on the following link to visit their website, and please donate generously. Thank you.
Felix Zandman reciting the Kaddish (memorial) prayer at the Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony, 1996 (00:01:20m)
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme (Remembrance and Beyond)
Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the Holocaust Remembrance
(A/RES/60/7, 1 November 2005)
Resolution 60/7 Official Record (Document) (12 pages)
United Nations General Assembly 60th Session, 42nd plenary meeting November 1, 2005
The Simon Wiesenthal Center
Jagiellonian University Centre for Holocaust Studies (Warsaw, Poland)
http://www.holocaust.uj.edu.pl/ (in Polish)
http://www.holocaust.uj.edu.pl/index.php?lang=en (in English)
Task Force for International Co-operation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research
The Nizkor Project (counters Holocaust Denials)
Genocides in History (Wikipedia)
Video of Raphael Lemkin (regarding Armenian Genocide, etc)
Video of President Obama concerning Armenian genocide
Voices of the Holocaust - tape recordings made in 1946 of Holocaust survivors’ testimonies.
ARCHIVES & DATABASE
USC Holocaust & Genocide Studies (Database)
Personal accounts of persecution and genocide by the Nazi Regime WWII Holocaust
USHMM Holocaust Survivor Testimonies
Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team (H.E.A.R.T.)
“Their Denial and Our Silence Mock International Holocaust Memorial Day”
by Rabbi Abraham Cooper Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance (The Huffington Post.com)
“Auschwitz Liberator honoured by Poland’ Walter Ruby / Daily News Writer March 6 2005
“Polish Jewish Museum to open in April 2013” (The Associated Press)
YOU TUBE CHANNELS
USC Shoah Foundation Institute
(founded by Steven Spielberg)