GENEVA – On the occasion of the Shoah (Holocaust) Remembrance Day, Geneva’s Jewish communities organized a public commemorative ceremony on the evening of April 20. The date was selected according to the Jewish calendar as it has been every year since 1959, by each Jewish community worldwide.
In the presence of such key figures as Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Shoah survivor Elie Wiesel, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Father Patrick Desbois and Irwin Cotler, the ceremony took place at the Place des Nations, a symbolic location in light of the opening of the UN Durban Review Conference against Racism, also held on the same day.
“We are pleased to be able to proclaim this universal message [at the Place des Nations] while facing the United Nations and the flags from countries of the world, particularly at this time and in the presence of representatives from all religions who have allied themselves to commemorate this tragedy for mankind,” said Joël Herzog, President of the Organizing Committee.
While the ceremony included survivors of the Shoah, it brought together representatives of other minority groups that were also persecuted by the Nazi regime. In addition, a wide range of delegations from diverse religious communities and political groups attended. The gathering was in fact a stark reminder of the dangers of all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, as precursors of crimes against humanity.
The Yom Hashoah ceremony in Geneva began with the reading of names of those who perished in the Holocaust. The flames of the candles lit symbolized the memory of the Shoah being transferred from one generation to the next. “It is our duty to pass on the flame to young generations to perpetuate this memory so that such a tragedy never occurs again,” said Ron Aufseesser, President of the Jewish Community of Geneva.
The remembrance ceremony emphasized the universal message of the Shoah while serving as a warning against Holocaust denialists. It was in this spirit that tribute was paid to the memories of René Cassin and Raphaël Lemkin, the founding fathers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, respectively – texts that continue to frame the fight for the betterment of humanity to this day.
The closing speech was made by Bernard-Henri Lévy, an advocate of ethics and justice, whose career has been characterized by his endless efforts to attract the world’s attention to the most serious violations of fundamental human rights. In a previous interview, Mr Lévy emphasized his deep dislike of “… the idea of a big, huge, and empty concept of suffering, one in which you would put an accident, the Holocaust, the genocide of the Tutsis, a murder across the street, an accident on the road, all in the same bag.” Every act which violates human rights should be considered in its own right.
Inspired by Geneva’s special significance in the field of human rights, the Yom Hashoah asserted a unified voice in favor of a universal message: “Never again”.