USUN PRESS RELEASE #006 January 27, 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, January 27, 2014
Mr. Under-Secretary-General, President Ashe, Ambassador Prosor, Mr. Spielberg, Excellencies, and guests, I am honored to participate in this annual ceremony of remembrance, which is centered this year on the theme “Journeys Through the Holocaust.” Today marks the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. In pondering the lessons of the past, it is worth thinking back even further, to January 27, 1939 – exactly three quarters of a century ago, when “Auschwitz” was just the German name of a Polish town.
On that day, the Polish Foreign Minister had just returned from meetings in Germany. He reported that the Nazis were unlikely in 1939 to start a war, an assessment widely shared within the European diplomatic community.
In Prague, Czech officials were also returning from Germany, having been pressured by the Nazi authorities to intensify discrimination against Czech and Slovak Jews.
In Berlin, Hermann Göring had that week established a Central Office for Jewish Emigration, designed to facilitate both the flight of Jews and the theft of their assets.
In London, the British Foreign Office was circulating a memo to friendly governments stating, and I quote, that “there is as yet no reason to suppose Hitler has made up his mind” about attacking his neighbors. The memo referred to Germany’s acute economic problems and to speculation about whether the Nazi dictator could count on his army’s loyalty.
But on January 30, Hitler delivered a speech that revealed more of his intentions. He mocked the West for refusing to accept more Jewish refugees and he predicted that a second world war, if it came, would result “in the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.” Seven months later, German troops swarmed across the Polish border and the world’s most devastating conflict began.
I cite this history not to illustrate the dubious wisdom of hindsight, but because the evidence is clear that the Holocaust was not inevitable. The Shoah was not set in stone by the terms of the Versailles Treaty, or by Hitler’s rise to power, or by the Anschluss with Austria, or by the Munich Pact. What Hitler wanted was clearer than what Hitler thought he could actually achieve. He was constantly assessing the degree of resistance he might encounter – both domestically and globally. He was probing. He was planning. Early in 1939, had he been confronted by a more united and determined world community; he might well have been stopped before he truly began.
The horrors of the Holocaust have no parallel but the world continues to confront crimes that shock the conscience. In October the Security Council spoke with a united voice about the need for action to address the humanitarian devastation in Syria. There are people who are imprisoned in their own neighborhoods. They are literally being starved and bombed to death. They need food desperately and yet food cannot reach them because the regime won’t allow it.
In 1945, Russian soldiers liberated Auschwitz. Sixty-nine year later, if the United Nations is to live up to the noble purposes for which it was founded, the world again needs Russia to use its influence, this time, to ensure that food reaches the desperate and starving people imprisoned in besieged Homs, Yarmouk, the Damascus suburbs, and elsewhere.
Today, as we recall the unmatched horrors of Auschwitz, the Holocaust, and World War II, we must acknowledge our responsibility to remember with honor both those who died and those who endured great suffering, unimaginable suffering, and who survived. Some of them are with us. We will never ever forget these men and women, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. We also must acknowledge as well that remembrance is the beginning – not the end – of our responsibility; and while the world has never seen anything as horrific as the Holocaust, the duty we have is an urgent and active one: to confront evil, to defend truth, to unite in the face of threats to human dignity, and to strive to stop any who would abuse the their neighbors. Let us go forward, then, to meet that obligation, recognizing our own fate in that of others, and demanding always the very best of ourselves.
The United Nations Experience
For the past number of months we at the Partnership for Global Justice have been evaluating and exploring ways to find out the impact of the UN experience for those who come to the Partnership seminars and workshops.
This is what they said:
A student from Loreto Abbey in Toronto said that as a result of the 3 - day workshop he was "forever changed"and the concept of being a Global Citizen was both challenging and inspirational. As a direct result of the experience he had formed a group to link with a project in India for clean water.
Another student from another school in Toronto was particularly moved by the workshop on Human Trafficking and has since been in touch with the presenter for her PowerPoint and ways that she in her local area can track, monitor and highlight this modern day slavery scourge. The student concerned is involved in educating others about trafficking especially as it pertains to Canada.
A higher education student from Dublin, Ireland who is completing his Masters studies at the All Hallows' Institute was so challenged and moved by the experience that he has since set up a UN model experience and has many people now on board to look at empowerment at the grass-roots level. He was particularly moved to learn about some of our education projects and how $50 in some countries can provide a poor child with schooling for one year. He has raised money to provide education for 7 girls in Sudan.
A student from The Richard Stockton College of NJ who came with her classmates to a UN orientation provided by the Partnership wrote:
"The UN experience was a highlight for me. Here we were at one of the most important landmarks in international politics, learning about how this complex organizations works and how we as Global Citizens must play our part.
The seminar on Sustainability was mind-blowing. The presenter - Sister CJ Willie gave us practical examples on the Cow on a Loan has changed lives in rural Africa.
I consider the UN experience to be one of the most important and challenging experience that I am having as a student at Stockton College. As a result I have joined Go Global and take a keen interest in world affairs beyond the USA.
A student from a college in Pennsylvania studying international law first learned about the UN when Sister Deirdre Mullan was a Keynote speaker at her school.
As result of that experience and her subsequent decision to study international law she became involved and actually spearheaded the building of a school in Cambodia. "What happens to girls worldwide matters and I will do what I can to stand up and speak out".
On November 13, 2013 I had a most incredible opportunity to listen to and learn from professionals who work at the United Nations. While the early wake up to go to New York and the UN was not something I was looking forward to, little did I realize that I could learn and experience so much! The UN's main objective is to solve global challenges and I too want to be part of the generation who will rise to the challenge of fixing our world.
The Partnership for Global Justice
Educating, Advocating, and Participating for a Just World