The United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution designating 27 January as an annual day to commemorate the Holocaust.
The resolution also urged all nations to develop ways to keep the Holocaust memory alive so that future generations will help prevent similar acts of genocide.
27 January is currently officially recognized as a day of remembrance for Holocaust victims in European countries, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy and Germany, because it marks the day in 1945 when the advancing Soviet army liberated the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Poland.
The Council of Europe in Strasbourg, which groups 46 member states accross the European continent, had already designated the day as officially as Holocaust Day. Last year, The European Parliament proposed to make the day a European Holocaust memorial day.
The UN resolution, which calls for 27 January to be the "International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust", is
the first of its kind, spurring diplomats in New York to call the move "historic."
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, told the General Assembly that the major contribution the United Nations and its members can make to memorialize the Holocaust victims is an assurance that such an event will never take place again.
In addition to setting a world Holocaust Day, the resolution calls on member nations to develop educational programs to teach the next generations the lessons of the Holocaust, in an effort to prevent acts of genocide in the future.
The resolution also includes a clause opposing any steps to deny the Holocaust as a historical event, in whole or in part.
It expresses appreciation for all countries that acted to preserve and maintain sites that existed during the Holocaust, such as death camps, concentration camps and forced labor camps.
UN founded on the ashes of WWII
"the flame of memory must not be extinguished and must be passed from generation to generation"
General Assembly President Jan Eliasson said it is important to remember that the UN’s founding and the end of World War II are inextricably linked.
The UN was "erected from the ashes of the Second World War," Eliasson said. He continued by saying that part of its original mission was to make sure such an "unspeakable atrocity" as the Holocaust never occurred again.
Eliasson and other speakers noted, however, that the Holocaust and WWII did not mark the end of crimes of genocide. The Holocaust "must, therefore, be a unifying historic warning around which we must rally. We can’t continue to repeat saying ’Never again’," Eliasson said.
The resolution, first proposed by the United States, Israel, Russia, Australia, and Canada was co-sponsored by nearly 100 nations from every continent.
Egypt’s UN envoy Maged Abdelaziz said while he had no objection to making January 27 Holocaust remembrance day: "We believe no one should have the monopoly on suffering".
He added that the UN should focus on "genocide as a whole and worldwide without discrimination on the basis of religion or ethnic background."
Malaysia and Indonesia made similar points.
Jordan’s UN envoy Prince Zeid al-Hussein for his part stressed that the Holocaust was "a crime inflicted on European soil, by Europeans against Europeans."
"But this tragedy is also sometimes used as a form of moral justification for policies by one state which leads to the continued domination... the continued degradation of one people by another," he added, referring to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Darkest chapter for Germans
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer praised the UN general assembly’s resolution and said that for the German people the Holocaust "will forever be a dark time in their history demanding special treatment."
"At a time when the last personal witnesses of the Holocaust are leaving us, it is especially important to find new ways to keep the fate of the victims alive in the memory of the world -- and to keep on asking how such crimes could ever be committed," he said.
The foreign ministers of France and Romania recalled the dark past of collaboration. An estimated 76,000 French Jews and 25,000 Romanian Jews were deported to camps.
|We can’t continue to repeat saying ’Never again’|
General Assembly President Jan Eliasson
"If a crime analogous to genocide is not to happen again in the future, the flame of memory must not be extinguished and must be passed from generation to generation," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said.
Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu said his country, after the fall of Communism, was restoring its collective memory. The Holocaust "symbolizes for us the greatest tragedy human kind has ever known," he said.
"One can only congratulate those who initiated this resolution," Serge Cjwagenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, told EJP. He noted that several European countries have already followed a recommendation by the Council of Europe to commemorate the Holocaust on 27 January.
On January 24 this year, the UN General Assembly held a special session to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
United Nations General Assembly decides to designate 27 January as annual International Day of Commemoration to Honour Holocaust Victims