On Friday, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) met for the annual International Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony. Noah Klieger, who was the keynote speaker, survived the notorious Auschwitz extermination camp. Noah Klieger, age 90, was also a news reporter for the Yedioth Acharonoth newspaper for 60 years .He was accompanied to the podium by his grandson Yuval, an IDF officer in uniform for the event.
Noah opened his speech saying that “exactly 72 years ago the Soviets came to liberate Auschwitz. Only we weren’t there. 9 days before the remaining 60,000 of us were sent on a death march to relocate to another camp to continue the war effort. Auschwitz was a compound of 45 camps and from there we went to Glivitz a small town near the German border. The roads were littered with corpses of those shot for not keeping pace; others just lay to die on the roadside. Out of 60,000, less than 19,000 survived. Some of us calculated that we didn’t eat for 2 weeks.”
At this point Klieger paused and asked the assembly “Why did I choose to tell of the Holocaust on this podium? This is my first time and probably my last time I will do so. My days on this earth are short but the UN must take a step forward. Specifically now that this whole generation is disappearing we need to remember the Holocaust.” Klieger stressed the importance of continuing to tell the survivors’ story and called on the UN to adopt a resolution to encourage member states to educate their future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust. “It needs to be in school curriculums across the world.”
“Hitler didn’t take Germany by force, he was voted in. Auschwitz is unexplainable just as it is unexplainable that the most “civilized” country in the world would follow this caricature of a man blindly and enthusiastically.”
Noah said that holding on to three dreams is what kept him alive during his tortuous internment. Klieger said those dreams were, “To survive this hell on earth; I was sure I wouldn’t”. Auschwitz wasn’t meant to leave survivors.
The next dream I told myself was “To tell as many people as possible what the Nazis did to the Jews. The third dream was to help regain the land from which we were driven into exile. My dream came true and our historic Jewish homeland has been restored.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “We remember our history, as painful as it may be, so that we learn from it and never let it repeat itself… implore the next generation to heed the lessons of this darkest of periods with two simple words: Never again,” Danon said.
Danon continued “Noah has made it his lifelong mission to use the beautiful power of the spoken and written word to educate and warn about the evil humanity can inflict upon the world. He is a hero in so many ways. Not only did he survive Auschwitz, but he then immigrated to Israel, enlisted in the IDF and fought bravely in our War of Independence. To this day Noah continues to fight. His willingness to speak the truth is an inspiration to all of us, and his presence reminds us that the Holocaust cannot be denied or forgotten.”
In addition to the main ceremony at its New York headquarters, the UN also held Holocaust memorials in more than 47 countries around the world.
Secretary-General António Guterres in a special address said:“It would be a dangerous error to think of the Holocaust as simply the result of the insanity of a group of criminal Nazis. On the contrary, the Holocaust was the culmination of millennia of hatred and discrimination targeting the Jews – what we now call anti-Semitism. History keeps moving forward, but anti-Semitism keeps coming back. There is also a new trend of Holocaust revisionism, with the rewriting of history and even the honoring of disgraced officials from those days,” he warned.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated by the UN in 2005 as an international day of commemoration. Becoming a fixture in countries the world over, the UN also held Holocaust memorials in over 47 countries around the world.
“Holocaust Remembrance: Educating for a Better Future” was the theme the UN chose for the Holocaust remembrance and education activities in 2017.
We hope that they indeed learn from this day and ultimately stamp out anti-Semitism around the world.