REMARKS AT OPENING OF EXHIBIT MARKING THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION OF AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU
New York, 21 January 2020
Excellencies, Mr. Zoltan Matyash, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
It is an honour to be here with you today at the opening of this exhibit. The United Nations is fortunate to host such a deeply moving and important collection of photographs.
Seventy-five years ago, when soldiers of the Soviet army entered Auschwitz, they were stunned into silence by what they saw. The Nazis had attempted to hide some of the evidence of mass murder. But the millions of clothing items and tons of hair told their own appalling story.
Liberation ended the Holocaust. But it was just the beginning of our efforts to make sure such crimes never happen again.
I will never forget my visit to Yad Vashem two years ago. I was shocked once again by the ability of antisemitism to reinvent itself and re-emerge time and again, over millennia. Even after the Holocaust, when its catastrophic results could not have been clearer, antisemitism continues. Sometimes it takes new forms, and is spread by new techniques, but it is the same old hatred. We can never lower our guard.
The past few years have seen a frightening upsurge in antisemitic attacks both in Europe and the United States, part of a troubling increase in xenophobia, homophobia, discrimination and hatred of all kinds. Even Nazism itself is threatening to reemerge —sometimes openly, sometimes in disguise.
As the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sacks, has said, “The hate that begins with Jews never ends there.”
Remembrance and education are an essential part of our prevention efforts, because ignorance creates fertile ground for false narratives and lies. “Never again” means telling the story again and again.
It is a great honour to have Mr. Zoltan Matyash here with us today. We are all deeply grateful to him and to all Holocaust survivors, who inspire us with their strength and their example.
As survivors grow older, it is essential that we keep their memories alive and carry their testimony forward in new ways for new generations.
That is why the United Nations Holocaust Outreach Programme and UNESCO provide written testimony, photographs, videos and other resources for schools and institutions around the world.
And that is why exhibitions like this are so important. These portraits of Holocaust survivors speak to us of the dignity, humanity and interconnectedness of each unique member of our human family.
Their heartbreaking stories of survival and courage inspire us to do more, in whatever way we can, to combat persecution, hatred and discrimination, wherever they are found.
We will gather at the General Assembly in a few days to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to renew the commitment of the international community to prevent any repetition of such crimes against humanity.
Understanding our history connects us to the essential human values of truth, respect, justice and compassion.
As these values come under attack from all sides, we must reaffirm them more strongly than ever.
We will stand firm every day and everywhere against antisemitism, bigotry and hatred of all kinds.
The world failed all those who died, and those who continue to suffer as a result of the Holocaust.
We cannot fail them again by allowing their stories to be forgotten.