President Barack Obama on Monday urged the world to remember the victims of the Holocaust and confront anti-Semitism.
“Each year on this day the world comes together to commemorate a barbaric crime unique in human history,” he said in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “We recall six million Jews and millions of other innocent victims who were murdered in Nazi death camps. We mourn lives cut short and communities torn apart.
“Yet even on a day of solemn remembrance, there is room for hope,” said Obama. “For January 27th is also the day Auschwitz was liberated 69 years ago. The noble acts of courage performed by liberators, rescuers, and the Righteous Among Nations remind us that we are never powerless.
“In our lives, we always have choices. In our time, this means choosing to confront bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, especially anti-Semitism,” he added. “It means condemning any attempts to deny the occurrence of the Holocaust. It means doing our part to ensure that survivors receive some measure of justice and the support they need to live out their lives in dignity.
“On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Michelle and I join the American people and our friends in the State of Israel and around the world as we reaffirm our obligation not just to bear witness, but to act,” said Obama, adding, “May God bless the memory of the millions, and may God grant us the strength and courage to make real our solemn vow: Never forget. Never again.”
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, U.S. ambassador Samantha Power noted how the Russians liberated Auschwitz in 1945 and called on them to use their influence today, 69 years later, to let humanitarian aid into war-torn Syria.
“The horrors of the Holocaust have no parallel but the world continues to confront crimes that shock the conscience,” said Power. “In October the Security Council spoke with a united voice about the need for action to address the humanitarian devastation in Syria. There are people who are imprisoned in their own neighborhoods. They are literally being starved and bombed to death. They need food desperately and yet food cannot reach them because the regime won’t allow it.”
“In 1945, Russian soldiers liberated Auschwitz. Sixty-nine year later, if the United Nations is to live up to the noble purposes for which it was founded, the world again needs Russia to use its influence, this time, to ensure that food reaches the desperate and starving people imprisoned in besieged Homs, Yarmouk, the Damascus suburbs, and elsewhere,” she added.
“Today, as we recall the unmatched horrors of Auschwitz, the Holocaust, and World War II, we must acknowledge our responsibility to remember with honor both those who died and those who endured great suffering, unimaginable suffering, and who survived. Some of them are with us. We will never ever forget these men and women, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. We also must acknowledge as well that remembrance is the beginning – not the end – of our responsibility; and while the world has never seen anything as horrific as the Holocaust, the duty we have is an urgent and active one: to confront evil, to defend truth, to unite in the face of threats to human dignity, and to strive to stop any who would abuse the their neighbors. Let us go forward, then, to meet that obligation, recognizing our own fate in that of others, and demanding always the very best of ourselves,” said Power.
More than 50 MKs traveled to Poland on Monday, to tour Auschwitz and participate in a special ceremony commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The delegation was led by MKs Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) and Yitzchak Herzog (Labor).
The MKs were joined by over 50 members of the Polish parliament; several Israeli and Polish government ministers; and Holocaust survivors.
In a special statement in honor of the day, President Shimon Peres cited the universal value of human life.
"The Holocaust is a great warning to us all," he stated. "We shall never forget our sisters and brothers. We have to ensure that it is not repeated and to ensure that we never go back to the days when humans behaved as beasts. Forgetfulness is a menace, we must remember and remember to love and respect everyone no matter the color of their skin or the origin of their birth."
In his speech to the General Assembly, Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor said that the world had not learned the lessons of the Holocaust.
“Nearly 70 years after the end of World War II we still see racist incidents and anti-Semitic incidents around the world. This hate expresses itself in the form of religious functionaries who preach Jew hatred, textbooks with anti-Semitic drawings and in speeches made by leaders,” he said.
Prosor stressed that all these phenomena were still extant in the Palestinian Authority. “The Palestinians teach their children that Jewish lives are worth less. They teach that the Holocaust was a 'lie manufactured by the Zionists. These things are set out loud, in front of large crowds, on children's TV programs, and in cultural events. Similar messages are heard throughout the Arab world,” said Prosor.