|Date||3 November 2008|
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Agenda item 59
Report of the Secretary-General (A/63/316)
Albert Einstein once said "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil but because of the people who don't do anything about it". Einstein was referring to the deafening silence that prevailed throughout the world while the Holocaust -- the systematic slaughter of innocents by the Nazis -- was taking place.
The lessons of the Holocaust are as real in our day as they were 70 years ago, on the eve of Kristallnacht. In every generation tyrants rise up to test the will of the world. They know from studying the rise of Hitler that it is possible to promise unspeakable acts of violence and yet not be opposed. They know that the world has the capacity to stand by and let evil flourish. But they must also know that we too have studied history and that we too have learned lessons from it. The passage of resolution 60/7 by the General Assembly three years ago, on 1 November 2005, is proof of that. That resolution sets a new course for international action to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust and to confront the threat of genocide in our own day.
The United States welcomes the release of the Secretary-General's recent report on the United Nations Outreach Programme and is pleased to acknowledge the excellent work done so far to implement the full range of activities called for by resolution 60/7. The efforts to educate, conduct outreach and help raise generations free from the bonds of hatred are much needed and form the basis of the work of the United Nations at all levels.
The Outreach Programme is to be commended for the creative platforms it has used in order to reach across the broad spectrum of diverse societies, including seminars, briefings and round tables, online educational curricula, film screenings, exhibits and concerts. Such an all-encompassing approach to Holocaust remembrance will prove to be indispensable to the education of today's young people to the dangers inherent in hatred and bigotry and to the horrors of what humankind is capable of doing to one another.
The United States is proud to be a committed participant in those Outreach Programme efforts. American educators, film-makers, musicians, institutes of higher education, museums and foundations have contributed their resources and talents to the success of this Programme.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, for example, has been an active partner with the United Nations Programme. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has organized training seminars for United Nations information officers serving in the field. The work of memorializing the Holocaust and the prevention of future genocides must be an abiding concern for all free nations because the threat in our own time is very real.
The same underlying issues of State-sponsored hatred and intolerance which led to the Holocaust are as dangerous today as they were then. The false and anti-Semitic libels that flourished in Europe before the Second World War now find new audiences throughout the world. The dignity and value of each individual must be respected and protected in order to prevent future acts of genocide. The Outreach Programme and all of the countries that have participated to date are to be commended for their tireless efforts in spreading that message.
Despite the adoption of resolution 60/7, it remains inexplicable that one of the Member States, Iran, continues to insist upon denying the truth of the Holocaust. As the United States has stated many times before, to deny the Holocaust is tantamount to approving the extermination of the Jewish people in particular, and to approving genocide in general. That is unacceptable and unconscionable.
If the denial of the Holocaust does prove anything, it is that the lessons of that incomprehensible, tragic event in human history remain unlearned. It is for that reason that the Outreach Programme is especially important. We hope that the Programme will continue to expand and provide the necessary resources to counter intolerance and hatred while promoting understanding and respect. The United Nations will continue to support that essential mission.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could not have been more correct in stating that it is not enough to remember, honour and grieve for the dead. As we do, we must also educate, nurture and care for the living. We must foster in our children a sense of responsibility so that they can build societies that protect and promote the rights of all civilians.
It is a simple truth, an eternal truth and a truth worth defending against all those who seek to infringe upon it. For if we do not affirm and protect the right of every human being to live in a world free from baseless hatred, racism and bigotry, we can never claim to be an organization of united nations.
At the outset, please allow me to thank the President for convening this meeting.
One week from today, the United Nations will mark the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom -- the Night of Broken Glass -- a single night that served as a prelude to the Holocaust. On that night, organized gangs of Nazi rioters and their supporters rampaged throughout Germany, destroying more than a thousand synagogues, as well as thousands of Jewish shops and businesses. In the massive pogrom, Jews were murdered and many thousands more were sent to concentration camps.
The anniversary we commemorate is one of many activities of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. It has been organized since its inception, following the adoption in November 2005 of resolution 60/7, entitled "Holocaust remembrance".
The resolution was a historic and universal achievement that signalled the first acknowledgement by the United Nations of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people during the years of the Second World War. Indeed, other peoples, cultures and nations also suffered severely from Nazi atrocities. However, let us not forget that no other nation lost such an enormous proportion of its people as did the Jewish people. In the words of Elie Weisel, "Not all victims were Jews. But all Jews were victims".
The Secretary-General's report before us (A/63/316) details the impressive work of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme of the Department of Public Information, under the leadership of Mr. Kiyo Akasaka and his predecessor, Mr. Shashi Tharoor. Israel commends their valuable work and dedication and will continue to support and cooperate with Mr. Akasaka and his staff.
The State of Israel and the Jewish people appreciate the historic resolution unanimously adopted by the General Assembly three years ago regarding Holocaust remembrance. Yet the resolution and the Secretary-General's report are not ends unto themselves. Holocaust remembrance must be a dynamic and ongoing effort that requires our commitment to adapting the lessons of the Nazi genocide to evolving threats in our times.
Thus, we cannot ignore the troubling reality that today -- more than 60 years after the Holocaust -- we have heard from this very rostrum a leader of a Member State who calls for the destruction of another Member State and denies the historical realities of the Holocaust. In this Hall, all Member States swore: "Never again". It is therefore incumbent upon us not merely to condemn such statements, but to act immediately and with resolve against a Member State whose leaders declare such despicable and dangerous words. For in the end, the Nazi Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers. That is where it ended. The Nazi Holocaust began with the dangerous words of men.
Israel wishes to thank the Secretary-General for his work, as detailed in the report, and my delegation continues to offer its assistance to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust continue to promote peace, coexistence and tolerance.
Humankind recalls the terrible crimes of Nazism with indignation and grief. The bloodiest of those crimes was the Holocaust. In my country, we remember those who fell victim to Nazism, including the six million killed in the Holocaust, half of whom were citizens of the Soviet Union.
Russia considers the Holocaust to be not only the national tragedy of the Jewish people, but a catastrophe of humankind as a whole. Current and future generations must understand who encouraged that horrific crime and who committed it. It is unacceptable to whitewash the actions of those who participated in the crimes of Nazism and were condemned by the Nuremberg trials, first and foremost, the members of the Schutzstaffel, the ideologues and executors of the Holocaust.
Thus we are very worried about the chauvinistic and pro-Nazi tendencies in certain countries, which pose a threat to democracy and human rights. In civilized countries, it must be unacceptable to glorify the memory of Fascism's accomplices -- the legionaries of the Waffen SS and other collaborators -- who destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of peaceful citizens, prisoners of war and concentration camp internees. It is also our responsibility to pay tribute to all the soldiers who died freeing Europe from Fascism and who saved the Jews and other peoples from slavery and complete destruction. Let us not forget those who freed the prisoners from Auschwitz-Birkenau, Majdanek, Treblinka and other death camps.
At the same time, we are seeing cynical attempts to rewrite history around the world. In some countries that declare themselves democratic, the days of victory over fascism are considered days of tragedy. Memorials to those who fought fascism are demolished. Monuments are erected and official decorations awarded to those who fought for fascism during the war and whose hands are drenched in the blood of innumerable innocent victims. Furthermore, in many States the accomplices of fascism and those who were directly responsible for putting Nazism's racial theories into practice are often seen as representatives of national liberation movements and freedom fighters for their countries. Thus, the very concept of such movements is desecrated, since they are considered to be undertaken in the name of racial purification. We believe that such an approach to be an insult to the historic memory of peoples, especially to those who fought against fascism.
The Second World War cost 50 million people their lives. Having overcome the scourge of Nazism, the world paid too high a price to have to accept attempts to revive it 60 years after the war that led to the creation of the United Nations. We need to be very vigilant in the face of attempts to revive the ideology that led to the Holocaust and uncompromising in combating neo-Nazism and other forms of racism.
That is why the Russian Federation requested that, at this session of the General Assembly, a draft resolution to be submitted to the Third Committee on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/C.3/63/L.49). We are convinced that the adoption of the draft resolution would contribute to the consolidation of international efforts to overcome those ugly phenomena. We call on all States that condemn the crimes of Nazism and fascism and pay tribute to its victims to support that initiative.
History has severely condemned National Socialism. The crimes of Nazism and its collapse are a formidable warning to all those who incite ethnic tensions and forget the lessons of the Second World War. We cannot allow people to suffer again by permitting the spread and resurgence of chauvinist doctrines.
I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union, Croatia, Ukraine, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The European Union, like the United Nations, arose out of the ruins of the Second World War. At the height of the turmoil, the Holocaust covered our entire continent with its ashes. However, far beyond Europe, it marked consciences and changed our hearts. The human race will never be the same again.
More than 60 years have passed since the Holocaust. Where the actual tragedy took place, Europeans have together patiently built a Union that has consolidated peace throughout the continent and brought them security and prosperity. United in their diversity, Europeans have learned the errors of their ways. They did not build to forget -- quite the contrary. The memory of the Holocaust was at the core of their entire reconciliation process. Europe is aware of its responsibility towards the survivors, their children and grandchildren. All Europeans must know and remember so that the barbarity that almost swept them away will never emerge again.
Three years ago, the General Assembly adopted resolution 60/7, which designated 27 January as International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The European Union welcomes the adoption of that resolution, which commemorates the liberation of the Nazi camps and honours the memory of Holocaust victims, first and foremost the millions of Jewish victims -- men, women and children -- but also the Roma, homosexuals, political prisoners or prisoners of war, and the physically and mentally handicapped.
Commemorating Holocaust victims is an integral part of our common heritage. It demonstrates our commitment to doing our utmost to counter the very idea that the worst might happen again. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the past, that lesson is still being rejected, denied or scorned in various parts of the world. Even today, as the United Nations meets once again to reaffirm its condemnation of the Holocaust and to perpetuate the memory of its victims, some have cast doubts in that regard or even deny it ever occurred.
That is why the Assembly requested that the Secretary-General establish an outreach programme on the theme "The Holocaust and the United Nations" and take measures to encourage civil society to mobilize throughout the world. The European Union welcomes the programme and the Secretary-General's report (A/63/316), which underscores its successful implementation since its establishment in January 2006. The programme facilitated the creation of an international network of groups from civil society, world-renowned institutions and Holocaust experts to develop as efficient and comprehensive an outreach programme as possible.
By providing civil society with communication tools to keep the memory of victims alive, the programme is contributing to the fight against forgetting or denying the Holocaust. As there are increasingly fewer Holocaust survivors who can still bear witness to it, it is essential that we find new ways to keep the memories of those horrendous crimes alive for future generations.
As the President of the Republic of France said at Auschwitz at the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the camps in 2005,
"To honour their memory, to honour the memory of all those deportees who died tragically in this place of suffering and Nazi extermination: that is the duty of all peoples who refuse to accept that the insult of oblivion should be added to this betrayal of human values ... When we remember each and every one of them, we give them justice. We prevail over their executioners, who promised them oblivion."
The purpose of adopting a resolution on Holocaust denial (resolution 61/255) last year was to confront the dangers of ignorance and scorn. The Holocaust has a specific universal character that cannot be denied or undermined. By commemorating the Holocaust, we reaffirm our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and all forms of religious, political or ethnic intolerance. For all those reasons, in 2005 the European Union supported declaring an International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and establishing a specific United Nations outreach programme.
Members of the Assembly can rest assured that the people of Europe, united in the memory of the horror and in their desire to promote peace and solidarity among all peoples, will continue to act together to repel any temptation to forget and the dangers of disavowal. That is our honour and our duty as a free people.
Austria fully aligns itself with the statement which has just been made by the Ambassador of France on behalf of the European Union.
We thank the Secretary-General for his excellent and comprehensive report (A/63/316) on the programme of outreach on the Holocaust and the United Nations. The report shows that Member States all over the world have benefited from the outreach programme since the adoption of resolution 60/7 in 2005. The resolution also urges Member States to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help prevent future acts of genocide and, in that context, specifically mentions the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. As the current Chair of the Task Force, Austria is very grateful for the work carried out by the Secretariat under the outreach programme. Let me share some aspects of the Task Force's work under the Austrian chairmanship.
The Task Force's work is based on the Stockholm Forum Declaration of 2000. The Declaration cites the quest for mutual understanding as one of the most important lessons to be learned from the Holocaust. The commitments it enshrines originate from the unprecedented character of the Holocaust, which will always hold a universal meaning. The Task Force's working groups function as a unique network of international cooperation comprising some of the world's leading experts in the field of education, remembrance and research. The intention is that teachers, students and society as a whole learn about the Holocaust and the lessons to be drawn from it for present and future generations. Task Force efforts to mobilize support and expertise for Holocaust memorials contribute to the culture of Holocaust remembrance. Special working groups focus on the genocide against the Roma, as well as on the Holocaust and other genocides.
The Task Force by its very nature is particularly concerned with tendencies of diminishing or denying the Holocaust. The Task Force is comprised of 25 member States, but it carries its mission beyond its own geographical range. Gaining knowledge about and dealing with the Holocaust should be further mainstreamed. That calls for a broader communication strategy with the aim of having Holocaust remembrance generally accepted as part of human rights education and learning. One of the Task Force's main goals under the Austrian chairmanship is to improve medial outreach. Its website serves as an open and accessible resource for mainstreaming Holocaust education, remembrance and research. The Task Force makes its tools accessible to the general public and seeks to deepen its cooperation with other organizations pursuing similar objectives.
On 10 November 2008, the day of remembrance of the 1938 pogroms, Task Force member States will come together with representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to discuss common objectives and experiences. My delegation is very pleased that the Special Adviser of the Secretary General for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Francis Deng, will also be present at that special event.
In 2005, when the United Nations Holocaust remembrance programme was created, an invitation was extended to all Member States to remember the Holocaust and to build societies based on inclusion, human dignity and respect for all persons. It is not good enough for us to stand here today and say that we remember and mourn what happened over six decades ago, for no one can truly comprehend the suffering of those who perished in the Holocaust. But we do understand that the attempted extermination of the Jewish people was a crime against all of humanity, and we understand that the prevention of genocide is a fundamental responsibility of the international community today.
Societies built on an ethos of tolerance and acceptance, where all forms of racism and discrimination are equally unacceptable, are needed now more than ever. Today, discrimination and intolerance have not yet been eradicated. Doing so is central to the task of preventing genocide and crimes against humanity in the future.
Canada is both supportive of and pleased with the energy and dedication the United Nations Department of Public Information has put into implementing resolution 60/7 of 2005. The Secretary-General's report (A/63/316) provides an impressive list of activities that have been undertaken since then, including initiatives commemorating the end of the Holocaust, network-building, academic seminars, civil society engagement and developing information products for educators. Canada would like that work to continue in years to come.
We have been struck by the fact that so many civil society organizations and artists responded to the United Nations call to work together in ensuring that the Holocaust is never forgotten. We note in that context that a Toronto-based multinational group of children came to the United Nations lobby last year to perform extracts from Oratorio Terezin, a moving piece based on poetry written by children in the Terezin ghetto.
In Canada, we have acted to educate our citizens on the Holocaust. An annual Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Day has been established, at which the Prime Minister, political party leaders and parliamentarians appear with Holocaust survivors on Parliament Hill to ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is never lost. Canadian archival collections -- including the Jacob M. Lowy Collection, which contains some of the earliest attempts to document and publicize the Holocaust -- have been made available for education and research. The Canadian Government has provided funding to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and is currently providing multi-year funding for the creation of a new human rights museum in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Also, Canada has been active in exploring the question of Holocaust-era cultural property.
Canada is very pleased to see that the Department of Public Information has used the entire United Nations network to ensure that the message reach audiences around the world. We applaud the fact that the outreach programme makes every effort to warn against the consequences of anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.
It is very impressive to see so many events and countries in the Secretary-General's report. That having been said, as United Nations information centres are only present in some countries, we all need to do even more to ensure that this messaging reaches the entire world. It is up to national Governments to fill the gap where there is no United Nations presence.
Canada also notes the importance of resolution 61/255 of 2007, which urges all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part, or any activities to that end.
In June 2007, Canada took the first step towards becoming a full member in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. Membership in the Task Force will strengthen our ability to contribute to the construction of societies, both in Canada and around the world, that are based on human dignity and where acts like the Holocaust are no longer possible.
In conclusion, Canadians, like all members of the international community, have a duty to remain vigilant with respect to all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism. We must ensure that the memory of the Holocaust is never lost. Canada, for its part, is firmly committed to that end.
It is now over 60 years since the world saw the defeat of a barbaric and tyrannical Nazi regime that had been set on the systematic eradication of the Jewish people. Australia considers the genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people during the Holocaust to be the most abhorrent of crimes. It cost many millions of lives and caused immeasurable damage and dislocation to the lives of many millions more. Its effects have been profound for a number of generations and continue to be felt today.
The Holocaust showed the depths to which humankind can descend and made clear to the world the devastating consequences of anti-Semitism, racial hatred and persecution. However, it is a sad fact that anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial, racism and religious intolerance continue to exist to this day.
Australia commends the work of the United Nations Programme of outreach on the Holocaust and the United Nations, as detailed in the Secretary-General's report (A/63/316). Since its establishment in 2006, the programme has worked actively to meet the aims of resolution 60/7 on Holocaust remembrance, including through memorial and educational activities, exhibitions and media outreach. Raising awareness of the Holocaust not only helps us to remember the many victims but also serves as a reminder of the need to remain vigilant and to take steps to prevent such a horror from happening again.
My delegation commends the Secretary-General for his report, entitled "Programme of outreach on the 'Holocaust and the United Nations (A/63/316)'".
Remembrance of the Holocaust serves first and foremost to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, to educate a generation of young people about the Holocaust and genocide, to raise awareness across the broader public and to stimulate more people to use their voice and challenge society's values. Rwanda, as a nation that has experienced the horrors of genocide, fully appreciates the significance of remembrance and the role it plays in reconciliation and the prevention of future genocides.
My delegation commends the work that the Department of Public Information has undertaken with various stakeholders and through a variety of mediums to ensure that the lessons from the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda are disseminated to as wide an audience as possible. Rwanda has received generous support in exposing what led to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
My delegation appreciates the work of other organizations that are educating and exposing intolerance in varied forms that may graduate into genocide or acts of genocide. Those noble efforts deserve commendation and the good work must be continued, because hate and intolerance are still forces in our world.
We have heard the last speaker in the debate on this item.
I now call on the representative of Iran to exercise the right of reply.
Today the General Assembly heard baseless and absurd distortions by certain States against the Islamic Republic of Iran. We reject those distortions and express our concern over and condemnation of the misuse of this body by certain circles to pursue some unwarranted political goals.
We, along with others, have condemned and continue to condemn genocide against any race or ethnic or religious group as a crime against humanity. My delegation wishes to reiterate that unambiguous position here again today. In our view, there is no justification for genocide of any kind, nor can there be any explanation for certain unfortunate attempts made by some, and particularly by the Israeli regime, to exploit past crimes as a pretext to commit new genocides and crimes.
We believe that to be a valid and serious concern that the international community should not fail to address. Unfortunately, certain political and media circles have mischievously interpreted that genuine concern and resorted to a campaign of misinformation and defamation against those who have called for a thorough examination of the incidents.
The General Assembly has thus concluded this stage of its consideration of agenda item 59.