On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, discovering the largest Nazi killing center in Europe. Auschwitz has become a symbol of the Holocaust, representing the depths of man's inhumanity to man.
In November 2005, the United Nations passed a resolution to mark January 27 as an international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Holocaust, and urged member states to develop educational programs to impart the memory of this tragedy to future generations. Over 60 governments have legislated January 27 as an annual Holocaust Memorial Day and Holocaust remembrance ceremonies will be organized on the international, national, regional and local levels, including in universities and schools.
The theme "Journeys through the Holocaust" recalls the various journeys taken during this dark period, from deportation to incarceration to freedom, and how this experience transformed the lives of those who endured it. These are stories of pain and suffering, yet ultimately also of triumph and renewal, serving as a guiding force for future generations.
Largest Knesset delegation to Auschwitz-Birkenau
Sixty MKs and ministers, accompanied by 24 Holocaust survivors, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Chief Rabbi David Lau, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and some 250 other public figures are scheduled to arrive in Poland on January 27, 2014 – Holocaust Remembrance Day – for a one-day visit. This is the largest delegation of MKs to be sent since the Israeli parliament's establishment.
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein: ”The elected parliament of the nation in Israel is travelling to the valley of the killings in order to feel part of the pain and allow the memory to be engraved in our hearts. The significance of this difficult journey is huge, and I hope and believe that it will leave an impression that will honor the survivors and the memory of the Holocaust. I am proud of the Knesset, its members and the dignitaries who are accompanying them for their impressive undertaking.”
The delegation will march to the Birkenau concentration camp, followed by a memorial ceremony in which some 1,000 people, including members of the Polish parliament (the ”Sejm”), are expected to take part. Later, an inter-parliamentary gathering will take place in Krakow with the participation of MPs and prominent figures from Israel, the United States, Poland, Canada and other countries.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York, a Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on January 27, 2014 will feature a message from the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and remarks by H.E. Mr. John W. Ashe, President of the 68th Session of the General Assembly; H.E. Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations; H.E. Ms. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations and Holocaust survivor Rena Finder. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg will deliver the keynote address.
A panel discussion on "The Rescue of Jews in Albania" will explore the circumstances and values that led Albanians to bravely save the lives of the innocent during the Holocaust. In extraordinary contrast with much of the rest of Europe, Albania - a Muslim-majority nation occupied by Nazi Germany in 1943 and 1944 - proved a place of refuge for virtually its entire Jewish population and others who sought haven there. In all, some 2,000 Jews were rescued from the Nazi genocide in this small country.
In addition, a new exhibit entitled “A Remembrance of the Holocaust in Hungary” will open, presenting a historical account of the Holocaust in Hungary in observance of the 70th anniversary of the deportation and extermination of the Hungarian Jews.
Promoting the role of education in preventing genocide, UNESCO will commemorate the genocide of the Jewish people and the millions of victims of the Nazi regime with an international seminar on “The impact of Holocaust education: how to assess policies and practices?” This seminar, organized in partnership with the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research and the International Bureau of Education of UNESCO, with the support of the Delegation of Hungary, will discuss the content and quality of Holocaust education in several countries of the world. It will be followed by a ceremony in memory of the victims.
UNESCO will also present several exhibitions on that day: “Journeys through the Holocaust”, testimonies of Jewish refugees by the USC Shoah Foundation and UNESCO; “In the Footsteps of the Lost”, photographs by Matt Mendelsohn with the Shoah Memorial; “The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity”, by the Permanent Delegation of Poland and “Les Rescapés de la Shoah: courage, volonté, vie”, paintings by Alain Husson-Dumoutier, UNESCO Artist for Peace.
To read a statement by EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on
Holocaust Remembrance Day, click here.