Dear Chaverot, Dear Friends,
Marta Wise was ill and emaciated when she heard the distant sound of soldiers marching toward Auschwitz. The 10-year-old Slovakian Jew assumed it was German troops coming to get her but once she saw the red stars on their uniforms she realized they were Russian. Her nightmare was over. She was liberated.
“That I survived and my sister survived is beyond me. I’ve never been able to work it out,” said Wise, now 80 and living in Jerusalem. “To me, as far as I am concerned, the
27th of January is my second birthday … because that’s when we got another lease at life.”
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an international memorial day on 27
January commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of
It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November
2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.
Tomorrow, 27 January 2015, we mark 70 years of the liberation of , Auschwitz- Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp, that was liberated by Soviet troops.
We often say that we must speak up for the Holocaust survivors because their voice is frail and never has this been truer, for it is likely to be the last time a large number of Auschwitz- Birkenau survivors will gather under an expansive tent surrounded by royalty and heads of state to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation. On the 60th anniversary 1,500 survivors attended – tomorrow 300 are expected – most in their 90s, some over 100 years old.
Andrzej Kacorzyk, Deputy Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum says that we find this a moment of passage. “a passing of the baton, It is younger generations publicly accepting the responsibility that they are ready to carry this history on behalf of the survivors, and to secure the physical survival of the place where they suffered”.
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will address the United Nations on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. He will also take the opportunity for a personal meeting with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. The two will inaugurate an exhibition prepared by Yad Vashem, which will be on display in the UN building.
The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is much more poignant this year due to the rise in Anti-Semitism in all its forms and the severity in the attacks on Jewish people and property. NEVER AGAIN is our heritage and we must honour the sacrifice and memory of the 6,000,000 who perished and of the survivors by doing everything possible to prevent another Shoah.
However, it appears that in contrast to 70 years ago – the international community is beginning to realize that Anti-Semitism is not only an attack on their Jewish communities but on the very fabric of the whole of their respective societies.
Last Wednesday, diplomats, historians and NGO leaders spoke about the need to prevent genocide, at an event hosted by the Polish mission to the UN to mark 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Among the speakers at the conference – titled “Why Have We Failed at Preventing Genocide and How to Change That?” – were representatives of four out of the five permanent UN Security Council members (China was absent), the Polish ambassador, and the ambassadors of Israel, Rwanda and Germany.
Moreover, last Thursday (22 January 2015) the United Nations General Assembly in New York held its first-ever meeting devoted to anti-Semitism in response to the global increase in violence against Jews. The meeting was scheduled even before the recent attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris .
The meeting was requested by 37 countries including Israel, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and all members of the European Union,- who sent a letter to assembly President Sam Kutesa in Octrober calling for a meeting in response to “an alarming outbreak of anti-Semitism worldwide.” They said they wanted a meeting because “a clear message from the General Assembly is a critical component of combatting the sudden rise of violence and hatred directed at Jews.”
The American, Canadian and the EU missions to the UN partnered with Israel to host the event.
Thursday’s New York session was opened with a video message from UN Secretary- General Ban Ki Moon, who told delegates that a “UN that wants to be true to its founding aims and ideas has a duty to speak out against anti-Semitism.”
Noted public French philosopher and author, Mr. Bernard Henri Lévy, delivered a keynote address.
Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, principal of the Ohr Torah school in Toulouse, whose daughter Miriam was brutally murdered in a terrorist attack in Toulouse in 2012, was also among the speakers at the session.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, called on European leaders to take a stand against anti-Semitism. “Let the message echo from the halls of the UN to the streets of
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Europe to the capital of every nation – stand for human rights and human dignity by taking a stand against anti-Semitism,” he said.
He continued, “The struggle against anti-Semitism must be a priority for every nation because the hatred that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews. History has shown us time and again that when a nation’s Jews are not safe, the entire society is at risk.”
“Europe is being tested,” he said. “We don’t need any more monuments commemorating the Jews who were murdered in Europe; we need a strong and enduring commitment to the living Jews in Europe. If the governments of Europe succeed in defending their Jewish communities, then they will succeed in defending liberty and democracy.”
He also stressed that ‘’the days when Jews were the world’s victims are over. We will never again be helpless and we will never again remain silent. Today we have the State of Israel standing guard.’’
A panel discussion in the afternoon included U.S. and Canadian lawmakers and several human rights experts including an Israeli professor.
UN General Assembly spokesman John Victor Nkolo said the 193-member world body discussed anti-Semitism many times in sessions dealing with intolerance, xenophobia, violence, racism and human rights violations. But he said “based on the available records we were able to check, this is indeed the first time that anti-Semitism as such is specifically the subject of an informal meeting of the U.N. General Assembly.”
Chaverot, we also have a role to play as WIZO chaverot and as individuals – we need to make sure that our children, grandchildren and all future generations know about the Shoah. Encourage them to visit Shoah museums, to visit Yad VaShem, to travel to Poland to join the “Walk of Life” tours, to read books and ten testament’s of survivors
Above all, we need to make sure that our respective governments take every possible measure to combat Anti-Semitism through legislation and take practical measures against those initiating and perpetrating Anti-Semitism in all its forms.
President World WIZO