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2005-01-24—Annan—U.N. Holocaust Commemoration

Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


World cannot fail again to stop genocide,
Annan tells UN gathering on the Holocaust
,  Jan. 24, 2005

holocaust file

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, opening a special session of the UN General Assembly to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, said today (Monday, Jan. 24) that the world "must be on the watch out for any revival of anti-Semitism, and ready to act against the new forms of it that are happening today.

"That obligation binds us not only to the Jewish people, but to all others that have been, or may be, threatened with a similar fate," Annan said. "We must be vigilant against all ideologies based on hatred and exclusion, whenever and wherever they may appear."

The Secretary-General said that "on occasions such as this, rhetoric comes easily. We rightly say, 'never again.' But action is much harder. Since  the Holocaust, the world has, to its shame, failed more than once to prevent or halt genocide— for instance in  Cambodia, in Rwanda, and in the former Yugoslavia. 

"Even today we see many horrific examples of inhumanity around the world," Annan continued. "To decide which deserves priority, or  precisely what action will be effective in protecting victims and giving them a secure future, is not simple. It is  easy to say that 'something must be done.' To say exactly what, and when, and how, and to do it, is much more difficult. 

"But what we must not do is deny what is happening, or remain indifferent, as so many did when the Nazi factories of death were doing their ghastly work," Annan said. "Terrible things are happening today in Darfur, Sudan. Tomorrow I expect to receive the report of the international 
commission of inquiry, which I established at the request of the Security Council. That report will determine whether or not acts of genocide have occurred in Darfur. But also, and no less 
important, it will identify the gross violations of international humanitarian law and human rights which  undoubtedly have occurred. 

"The Security Council, once it has that report in its hands, will have to decide what action to take, with a view to  ensuring that the perpetrators are held accountable. It is a very solemn responsibility."

Annan was the first in a line-up of speakers marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Other scheduled speakers included UN General Assembly President Jean Ping of Gabon, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel and Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

On the same day as the special session, the United Nations installed a special exhibit. “Auschwitz – the Depth of the Abyss,” in the north-east gallery of the General Assembly Visitors’ Lobby. The exhibit includes documentary photographs of Auschwitz' system for murdering Jews— taken by two nazi SS officers, Ernst Hofmann and Bernhard Walter—as well as paintings by a horrified Ukrainian artist-soldier, Zinovii Tolkatchev , of the scenes at the Majdanek death camp.

Donald H. Harrison