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UN to hold solemn events in memory of Holocaust

UN to hold solemn series of events in memory of Holocaust victims

Over six decades after the liberation of the Nazi death camps began, the United Nations this week will hold a series of solemn events culminating on Friday with the first universal observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

The activities, which are being organized by the UN Department of Public Information, stem from the General Assembly's decision, taken one year ago, to designate the International Day on 27 January, the date the Auschwitz camp fell to allied forces in 1945.

The 191-member Assembly adopted that resolution by consensus. Its provisions reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event and condemn all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur.

Welcoming its adoption at the time, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the annual event would serve as an important reminder of the universal lessons of the Holocaust and pledged to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.

Activities this week will include the UN Chronicle e-alert on Holocaust and genocide-related articles. The e-alert can be accessed by visiting www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/e_alert.asp.

On Tuesday, the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, will open a travelling exhibit entitled “Remembrance and Beyond: No Child's Play” from Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum. The opening at UN Headquarters will feature a high school student reading the poem “Dream,” written in the Lodz ghetto by Avremek Koplowitz, a 13-year old who later perished at Auschwitz.

That evening, the UN will screen the movie “Fateless,” based on the novel by the same name by Nobel Literature Laureate Imre Kertesz which follows a 14-year Jewish boy from Budapest to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

On Thursday, the UN's weekly NGO briefing will be devoted to the issue, featuring Ambassador Dan Gillerman of Israel and Judea Pearl, President of the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Their remarks will focus on promoting tolerance, cross-cultural understanding and communication.

The same evening, a candlelight vigil will be held in the UN Visitors' Lobby where Holocaust survivors and others will gather for a solemn ceremony. Six Holocaust survivors, representing the six million perished, will read excerpts from the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Friday's events will feature a programme that will begin with a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Other participants will include a number of dignitaries as well as Holocaust survivor Gerda Klein, who will be introduced by Roman Kent, Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust.

The programme will include the first lecture in a proposed annual series on the theme “Remembrance and Beyond” by Professor Yehuda Bauer, Advisor to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research. It will be webcast live at: http://www.un.org/webcast/index.asp/.

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