January 28, 2014

International Day of the Remembrance of the Holocaust at the UN headquarters in New York

Professional staff of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation (IRWF) attended the annual Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on January 27, at the United National headquarters in New York city.

This date was institutionalized as the International Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust in 2006, and the topic this year was “Journeys through the Holocaust”.

The ceremony started with a videotaped message by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon. He recalled the experience of his visit to the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau just a few months ago as a deeply sad one and yet inspiring, saying that “poison of genocide” is still alive in some places and asking to humanity never let this kind of atrocity happen again. The other speakers were Mr. John W. Ashe, President to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Ron Prosor, and Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, and Ms. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United Stated to the United Nations. The recurring concepts along the ceremony were the idea of remembrance as the beginning of responsibility, the idea of acceptance, compassion and tolerance, genocide nowadays, and how to educate the young generation.

The key note speaker was film maker and founder of the USH Shoah Foundation, Mr. Steven Spielberg. In his message he spoke about the transformation of rage and grief into wisdom and teaching, and about what he learned from his work at the Shoah Foundation, “after twenty years of producing movies about dinosaurs”. He conveyed that “the survivors want to teach us, they want to be heard and to be believed”. Survivor Mrs. Rena Finder was called to share her compelling story with the audience. She  survived because she was on Oscar Shindler’s list, and she publically thanked him more than once during her speech. As a way to transform her past experience and pass the torch of memory to the next generation, she has spoken and educated a multitude of students through her work with the organization Facing History and ourselves.

Before the closing of the ceremony, a few high school students from the Bronx Science High School gave their thoughts and remarks about the importance of teaching and learning about the Holocaust, and informed about the Holocaust Museum and Study Center, that was inaugurated in 2013, showing the most extensive collection of Holocaust artifacts at a U.S. public school.

The “Maaleh Rachamim” prayer marked the closing of the ceremony, in memory of the millions who perished during World War II.