75 years after Auschwitz – UN honors memory of the victims of the Holocaust

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Anteneh Aklilu

Ruth Brook

2020 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the end of the unimaginable genocide that killed 6 million Jews at the hands the Nazi regime – the Holocaust. In remembrance of the victims of the heinous crime, the United Nations has pledged to “never forget” the defining point in history and has marked January 27th as ‘The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust’.
The day of commemoration was observed in Ethiopia by the United Nations Ethiopia, the German Embassy and the Embassy of the State of Israel to Ethiopia on January 27th 2020 at the UNECA in Addis Ababa. The theme to mark this year’s commemoration was “75 years after Auschwitz – Holocaust Education and Remembrance for Global Justice,” coined by the United Nations department of Global Communications.

Anteneh Aklilu

The start of the new decade also marks 75 years since the birth of the United Nations.
The commemoration program began with opening remarks by Dr. Catherine Sozi, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator followed by words from the Ambassadors of Israel and Germany to Ethiopia.
“The liberation of the death camps has ended the carnage but horrified the world as the full scope of the Nazi’s crimes became clear. Out of these horrors, the United Nations was created to bring countries together for peace and our common humanity and to prevent any repetition of such crimes against humanity,” said Dr. Catherine Sozi, on behalf of the UN Secretary General, António Guterres.
Raphael Morav, Ambassador of the State of Israel followed with a speech.
“On the 27th of January, 1945, today, 75 years ago, the sun broke through above Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp after five years of darkness. A long line of people liberated by the Red Army left the valley of death. However, so many have already perished there, so many lives lost,” said Ambassador Raphael.
He noted that although the world is commemorating the termination on an “unparalleled crime”, anti-Semitism and racism are unfortunately still very much alive in our present surroundings; he cited genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda as examples. The Ambassador went on to say that hate speech and discriminatory, anti-Semitic images have found a new platform to exist in, the internet and social media. According to the Ambassador, the way to combat this is through education and awareness. He further stated that it is the responsibility of every country and citizen to preserve the memory of the Holocaust and join the battle against anti-Semitism.
“We need to be vigilant. We need to invest in education and youth. We need to strengthen social cohesion so that people feel that diversity is a plus, an advantage not a threat,” he continued.

Anteneh Aklilu

Brita Wagener, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany’s words mirrored those of Ambassador Raphael as she noted the shocking resurgence of anti-Semitic sentiments on social media and even in some parliaments. The Ambassador said that Germany has made a vow not to forget the crimes perpetrated by Germans and that the country is dedicated to ensuring remembrance of the Holocaust never stops.
“Auschwitz, that one word stands for millions of individual stories. Each one speaks in its own way of incomprehensible suffering, of unspeakable cruelty culminating in systematic murder,” she expressed.
A representative from Ethiopia’s German Embassy School, Heran Dawit Mengesha, closed the speech portion of the program with words on behalf of her school. Heran reminded the audience of the importance of acknowledging the intolerable genocide and its victims.
“We should remember them by their names and not by their numbers. Yes numbers. During the industrialized destruction of nearly a whole people, names did not count.”
The program concluded with a Jewish Prayer by Rabbi Eliyahu Habib and a screening of the documentary film “Numbered” – a documentary with testimonies from Aushcwitz survivors who were tattooed with serial numbers and the meanings these tattoos took on years after the war.