16 February 2017

Reflections on the Day of Holocaust Remembrance

In memory of the victims of the Holocaust, the United Nations annually observes the International Holocaust Remembrance day. During this year’s commemoration week, the United Nations Department of Public Information organized special exhibitions, film screenings, NGO briefing and the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony to bring awareness and remind the world of the threat posed to us all when genocide and crimes against humanity are allowed to occur. 

In 2005, the General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning "without reserve" all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief whenever they occur. The resolution declared that the United Nations would designate 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and requested the United Nations Secretary-General to establish an outreach programme on the "Holocaust and the United Nations", as well as institute measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.  

The theme for the Holocaust remembrance and education activities in 2017, is “Holocaust Remembrance: Educating for a Better Future”. The theme emphasizes the universal dimension of Holocaust education as a platform for building respect for human rights, increasing tolerance and defending our common humanity. The Holocaust was a defining point in history and its lessons have much to teach about the danger of extremism and the prevention of genocide today.

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) ASPIRE Chapter, East Stroudsburg South High School, East Stroudsburg participated in the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony and shared their impressions with UNAI. For the webcast of the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony in 2017, visit here.

“As an ASPIRE Chapter of the United Nations Academic Impact, our student group is welcomed to the United Nations several times a year to attend seminars, conferences, and master class lessons from global leaders and witnesses to history. The 2017 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust held in the General Assembly Hall was impactful, powerful, and inspirational for our high school students. To share an audience and listen first hand to those who students normally can only expect to read about in their history textbooks was an experience that will stay with them and shape them over the course of their lifetimes. ASPIRE students wrote reflections on their visit to the United Nations on January 27 and it is their hope in sharing these words that the theme of the day “Educating for a Better Future” was well received and the challenge of the speakers was accepted by our youth attendees.” 

- Michael Healey, Adviser-

“On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, my ASPIRE group of 50 high school students had the honor to attend the Holocaust Memorial Ceremony at the United Nations. This day will always resonate in my memory. It was not only a time of commemorating, but also a time of reflection and learning. We sat in the same audience as World War II Veterans and Holocaust survivors who lived through unthinkable events. We heard stories from people who demonstrated strength and resilience. We returned to our community after the event taking back so much. We were reminded of the importance of unity and using our voices to combat injustice as Elie Wiesel said, “Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” We were inspired;inspired to go forward and make a better future, a future we want. This future is full of tolerance and equality, a future where people remember lessons from the past and make sure the same injustices are never again committed.” 

-Francesca Nyakora, Sophomore-

“Attending the Holocaust Memorial Сeremony at the United Nations was an experience I will never forget. Being in a room with Holocaust survivors and remembering the millions of people who suffered in this genocide left me humbled by their resilience. It was an honor to hear them share their stories, experiences, memories, and offer valuable lessons and advice. One significant message that was emphasized during the event was that in order to treasure and honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, we must learn from it and therefore never allow it to happen again. The President of the 71st United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson, powerfully said: “...learn the lessons of the past so that humanity may never repeat such atrocities in the future.” I have learned from the survivors of the most unparalleled crime against humanity that the responsibility is on us to raise our voice and speak out against this injustice. We must make sure that history will not repeat itself and crimes like the Holocaust will remain in the past. It is our duty to rise against Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, Anti-Muslim Discrimination, and all other forms of intolerance and discrimination. As the late Elie Wiesel so famously said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
-Miriam Bouchekouk, Junior-

“The International Day of Holocaust Remembrance at the United Nations had a profound impact upon me, not because of what I heard or saw, but because of what I felt and the magnitude of that feeling. I was feet away from  veterans of the Second World War, ambassadors, and leaders. Although the feeling of being among these dignitaries and witnessing master class lessons can have an overwhelming effect on someone, what I felt came through the most powerful event of the day for me, theCantor Israel Singer’s performance. Cantor Singer’s ability to convey the pain and sorrow felt by the Jewish people and the world due to the horrific events of the Holocaust was simply amazing. The length of breaths and bodily movement utilized in the performance illustrated the sheer intensity of emotion that all people should recognize. Both during and after Cantor Singer’s performance, attendees felt sorrow and the visage on their faces made that clear. All who were in attendance can now bond over a reinvigorated will to defeat persecution. I am deeply honored to have been part of a gathering of those who seek to unite against persecution and to be part of the evolving conversation on doing so.”
-Jacob Pride, Junior- 

About ASPIRE: 

The ASPIRE(Action by Students to Promote Innovation and Reform through Education) is a student-driven initiative and actively embodies UNAI’s principles within student communities around the world. Operating locally within their communities, the activities of each ASPIRE group contributes to UNAI’s overall message of unity and action to address global challenges.