Jpost – Diaspora
NEW YORK – At a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the new Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres said he is ‘extremely concerned’ by expressions of hatred in the world today, including the targeting of immigrants and refugees.
The annual ceremony was held in the General Assembly hall and attended by UN diplomats, Holocaust survivors, Jewish groups and young students among others.
Beyond the Secretary General’s address, the event included speeches by the President of the GA Peter Thomson; Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon; and the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN Michele Sison.
The keynote speech of the event was delivered by Auschwitz camp survivor and Israeli journalist Noah Klieger, 91, who has dedicated his life to educating the next generations about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“After the Holocaust, the world seemed eager to find a more cooperative path. The founding of the United Nations was one expression of that moment,” Guterres told the hundreds of people in the audience. “Humankind dared to believe that tribal identities would diminish in importance. We were wrong.”
“Today we see anti-Semitism, along with racism, xenophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance, triggered by populism and by political figures who exploit fear to win votes,” he said. “Irrationality and intolerance are back.”
“I find the stereotyping of Muslims deeply troubling,” he added. “A ‘new normal’ of public discourse is taking hold, in which prejudice is given a free pass and the door is opened to even more extreme hatred.”
Guterres also condemned Holocaust denial as being “in complete contrast to tolerance, the primacy of reason and universal values”, along with expressions of anti-Semitism on social media and elsewhere.
“We need to be vigilant. We need to invest in education and youth,” he said. “We need to strengthen social cohesion so that people feel that diversity is a plus, not a threat. The United Nations itself must do more to strengthen its human rights machinery, and to push for justice for the perpetrators of grave crimes.”
“After the horrors of the 20th century, there should be no room for intolerance in the 21st,” he added, reiterating his commitment made last week at the Park East Synagogue that he will be on the frontline of the battle against anti-Semitism.
During the ceremony, the General Assembly paid tribute to the late Elie Wiesel, who passed away last July. His wife Marion was in attendance.
To give his testimony, Holocaust survivor Noah Klieger was accompanied to the podium by Ambassador Danon and his grandson Yuval, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces Navy wearing his uniform for the ceremony.
Klieger begun his speech in Hebrew before switching to English. He recalled three dreams that he had in Auschwitz: to be free, to tell as many people as possible what the Nazis did to the Jews and to help to regain the land from which the Jews were driven into exile and establish an independent country.
“I can say proudly today I reached all my goals,” Klieger said. He called on the world to continue to tell the story of survivors and on the UN to adopt a resolution encouraging member states to educate the next generations about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“We remember our history as painful as it may be, so that we learn from it and never let it repeat itself,” Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon added in his speech. “And we remember the bravery of the survivors. Those brave souls who are slipping away from us as they implore the next generation to heed the lessons of this darkest of periods with two simple words: Never again.”