For the first time, a seminar took place today at the Palais des Nation on the occasion of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The seminar was organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the support of the Permanent Missions of Israel and Canada.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay delivered opening remarks. In her speech, she focused on the story of Petr Ginz, a young Jewish boy from Prague who was killed in the Auschwitz gas chambers. The text of her speech that was circulated also featured a picture of Petr, the first time that any photo has been added to a speech by the High Commissioner. After her remarks, the High Commissioner called for a minute of silence.
The first speak was Prof Dan Michman, Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. Prof Michman discussed the topic of how the Nazis were able to exterminate 6,000,000 Jews and numerous others, their motivations and the means they used. He referred to modern antisemitism as a main driving force and ended his remarks by stressing the importance of education and legislation.
The second speaker was Karolina Mirga of the Ternype International Roma Youth Network who discussed the issues around the Roma killed during the Second World War and the efforts of her group to keep the memory alive, educate young people and remember the people who perished during that dark period.
The last speaker was Mario Silva, the Canadian chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance, an intergovernmental organization charged with promoting remembrance, education and research on the Holocaust. He spoke of the different activities of the organization and the important role they play, bringing together governments, academics and civil society.
Mr Silva quoted the words of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that “…we must resist the error of viewing the Holocaust as a strictly historical event. It’s not good enough for politicians to stand before you and say they remember and mourn what happened over six decades ago…they must be unequivocal in their condemnation of anti-Semitic despots, terrorists and fanatics. That is the only way to honour the memory of those who were consumed by the Holocaust.”
The seminar concluded by representatives from different countries taking the floor to reflect about the events of the Holocaust and the universal lessons it brings us, in terms of prevention and protection.