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U.N Pays Tributes to Victims of Nazi Genocide on Holocaust Memorial Day

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 31 2014 (IPS) - 69 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the United Nations continues its tradition of remembering the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazi regime with a Holocaust Memorial Day.

In a video message played during the January 27th gathering, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled his journey to Auschwitz, one of the worst German Nazi concentration and extermination camps saying that he would never forget his visit and recalling how everything was “extinguished through systematic murder, unique in human history.”

The Holocaust Memorial Day drew the likes of diplomats, journalists and survivors, each present to share their experiences and learn from the lives of others.

Born in Poland in 1929, Holocaust survivor Rena Finder recounted the horror of years past to a packed room in the General Assembly, emphasizing on the importance of remembering tragedy and cautioning attendees that, “Forgetting is dangerous.”

The United States Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power compared what happened to Jews 69 years ago to what is happening today in Syria.  She echoed the voice of the Security Council on the urgent need to address the humanitarian situation in the war torn country.

“As we recall the unmatched horrors of Auschwitz, the Holocaust, and World War II, we must acknowledge our responsibility to remember with honour both those who died and those who endured great suffering, unimaginable suffering, and who survived.  We must acknowledge as well that remembrance is the beginning, not the end of our responsibility.”

For filmmaker Steven Spielberg whose Oscar winning movie Schindler’s List was called his “riskiest and most personal film,” for his Jewish background and for his relatives who died during the genocide in both Poland and the Ukraine, to remember is to learn how to convey history in an authentic way.

“It took me years of directing sharks, aliens and dinosaurs before I felt ready to tackle the Holocaust,” Spielberg said.

In 1994, a year after the film was released Spielberg founded the University of South California Shoah Foundation Institute whose videographers interviewed approximately 250 holocaust survivors in 56 countries.

“We must refuse paralysis,” Spielberg said. “Genocide is evil, but I think perhaps the greatest evil is when people who have been spared the horrors permit themselves to despair.  The despair of those who would otherwise act is evil’s triumph.”

“Those who lived through it know what we will never know. But we can learn, because they want to teach us,” Spielberg added.

Finder, whose name appeared on Oskar Schindler’s list – the man who inspired the film, used her experience and life lessons to educate students about the Holocaust through her work with the organization, Facing History and Ourselves.  She explained that the impact of the film allowed survivors and liberators feel free to share their stories because a wall of silence came down.

“Encouraging young people to be more accepting of others and learn from the cruelty that was inflicted on Jews and other minorities during the Holocaust has been my life’s work,” said Finder.

Today, with violence prevalent in every corner of the world—Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo to Syria, Iraq and even Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand, the world is witnessing a multitude of loss everyday.

“Theirs were journeys into the Holocaust, they cannot emerge from it and neither can the world until there are no more genocides, until the unthinkable becomes impossible,” said Spielberg.

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