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International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

  | Tatiana Valovaya Speech


 “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution in the Decade after the Holocaust”

Ms. Fanny Ben-Ami (Holocaust survivor),
Ambassador Ms. Meirav Eilon Shahar (Permanent Mission of Israel),
Ambassador Mr. Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg (Permanent Mission of Germany)
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • We are gathered here today to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. More than six million people, mostly Jews, but also Roma, Sinti, political opponents, homosexuals and people with disabilities were murdered in death camps during a period of unprecedented cruelty. 
  • Let us remember them. And to do so, I would like to invite Talia Roffe, 11 years old, to come light a candle in their honour and their memory. 
  • And now, please join me in observing a minute of silence for the victims of the Holocaust. [Minute of silence.]  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • On this day, 76 years ago, the Soviet troops liberated the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau and revealed to the world the depth of the horrors perpetrated there. 
  • As we pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, I would like to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to fight antisemitism and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence. 
  • As you heard, the theme of this year’s commemoration focuses on the measures taken in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust to start the process of recovery and reconstitution of individuals and communities. 
  • Much can be learned from the process back then for today’s challenges, such as the importance of listening to the testimonies of victims and survivors and accurately recording the historical accounts. In the global context of increasing levels of disinformation and hate speech, rise of fake news and endangerment of free press, Holocaust education and remembrance is more urgent than ever. We must firmly counter those who seek to distort reality on a large scale.
  • On this International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, we celebrate the strength and the resilience of the women and men who survived the horror and who continue sharing their personal stories with courage. We, at the United Nations, remain committed to providing a platform for survivors to share their memories. 
  • Today, I feel extremely honoured to welcome, virtually, Ms. Fanny Ben-Ami, one of the last memory keepers of the Holocaust. I wish to thank her for sharing her story with us today and for bearing witness so that others may learn from her courage.
  • I sincerely believe that it is our duty to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to pass it on to the younger generations. In order to fulfil our promise of ‘Never again’ we must mobilize the youth and invest in their education. After the horrors of the 20th century, the 21st century should leave no space for intolerance, bigotry or discrimination. Instead, we must commit ourselves anew every day to the fundamental values of the United Nations: respect and human rights for all, regardless of where people live, their gender, race, culture, religion or ethnicity.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • As you all know, the Holocaust profoundly affected countries in which Nazi crimes were perpetrated. It also had universal implications and consequences in many other parts of the world. Therefore, Member States share a collective responsibility for addressing the residual trauma and promoting greater awareness, eight decades after the Holocaust. This responsibility entails educating citizens about the root causes, consequences and dynamics of such crimes in order to strengthen the resilience of young people against ideologies of hatred. Education is indeed one of the best tools at our disposal to prevent all forms of intolerance and discrimination, to defend fundamental freedoms and to ensure that human rights are respected everywhere, all the time. 
  • Despite history’s harsh lessons, our world today remains affected by atrocities, antisemitism and hateful discourse. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to “unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering”. In particular, the worrying rise of antisemitic rhetoric online and in the media around the world during the pandemic reinforces the urgent need for global cooperation to fight this scourge. 
  • The United Nations is fully engaged in combatting antisemitism as well as all forms of discrimination and intolerance based on religion or belief. The UN’s response is wide-reaching and takes place across UN agencies. For example, the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech launched in 2019 is being implemented to effectively address the root causes and drivers of hate speech. Furthermore, the UN Secretary-General designated Mr. Miguel Moratinos as a special United Nations Focal Point to monitor antisemitism and enhance a system-wide response. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • In these deeply challenging times, combating antisemitism and hatred in all their forms requires great solidarity and a firm commitment from all of us. The United Nations will continue to be at the forefront of these efforts.
  • Thank you very much.