Observing Saturday’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, he highlighted the millions of Jewish children, women and men, along with countless others, who suffered persecution and death during that dark period.
“We honour their memory. We stand with the survivors, their families and descendants. We pledge never to forget – nor let others forget the truth of what happened,” he said.
The International Day of Commemoration is marked annually on 27 January, the date on which the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and extermination camp was liberated in 1945.
This year’s observance, on the theme ‘Recognizing the Extraordinary Courage of Victims and Survivors of the Holocaust’ pays tribute to the bravery of all those who stood up to the Nazis, despite the grave risks.
‘We must remember’
Mr. Guterres underscored the ongoing relevance of the commemorative day in today’s world, where antisemitic hate is spreading rapidly, particularly online.
“But today of all days, we must remember,” he said, “that demonization of the other and disdain for diversity is a danger to everyone … and that bigotry against one group is bigotry against all.”
‘We must resolve’
Quoting the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sacks, the UN chief reminded the international community that “the hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.”
“So today – especially in the wake of the abhorrent 7 October terror attacks by Hamas — we must resolve to stand up against the forces of hate and division,” he said, calling for strongly condemning all forms of racism, hatred and prejudice.
Mr. Guterres emphasized the imperative to speak out against discrimination and intolerance, insisting on the defense of human rights and the dignity of every individual.
“Let us never lose sight of each other’s humanity, and never let down our guard,” he urged.
“To all who confront prejudice and persecution, let us clearly say: you are not alone. The United Nations stands with you.”
‘Our essential duty’
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called for strengthening our commitment to sharing the memory of the victims of the Holocaust “to pass the torch on to future generations.”
“To honour the victims, but also to train future generations to identify and combat hate speech, this International Day reminds us of our essential duty to remember,” she said.
“May we remain vigilant,” she added, recalling the warning given by Hungarian writer and camp survivor Imre Kertész, that “Auschwitz was not an accident of history, there are many signs that its repetition is possible.”
At the ceremony in New York on Friday, Holocaust survivors Christian Pfeil and sisters Edith Tennenbaum Shapiro and Selma Tennenbaum Rossen shared their stories, alongside a prayer by Cantor Daniel Singer, and performances by violinist Doori Na, singers Petra and Patrik Gelbart.
A video of the ceremony is available here.