By Janet Ekstract
NEW YORK – This year’s Holocaust memorial ceremony at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday will stand out as one of those major reflective moments in history, when top influencers came together to make one of the most crucial points of the 21st century: take a stand for justice.
The call to take a stand against increasing racism and hatred was echoed by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his poignant speech for International Holocaust Memorial Day.
Guterres warned that a state of xenophobia is rampant worldwide and that everyone must be vigilant in making sure that safeguards are in place to ensure that people from all cultures, walks of life and backgrounds will not suffer the fate of previousl generations.
UN General Assembly President Miraslav Lacjak, who also spoke at the event, mentioned the urgent need to end current human rights abuses while reminding those present to never forget “our collective failure to prevent it,” as he referred to the Holocaust.
Another prominent dignitary at the event, Israeli UN Envoy Danny Danon, emphasized his view that “we will firmly oppose any attempt to distort the truth,” referring to a current controversial bill proposal in Poland, that if passed, would criminalize assigning any blame for Holocaust-era anti-Semitic atrocities to Poland.
The Israeli government has slammed the proposed new law that would demand prison time for anyone mentioning the terms “Polish death camps” and would prohibit any references to Polish complicity in Nazi Holocaust war crimes.
Perhaps, the speaker with the most emotional message was Holocaust survivor and Israeli resident, Eva Lavi, originally from Krakow, Poland whose immediate family were saved by famous German industrialist Oskar Schindler – protecting them from an otherwise doomed fate on the infamous train to Auschwitz and the Nazi death camp.
Lavi pointed out that everyone was created equal and that remembering the Holocaust is a call to never repeat it.
In additional comments, Lajcak criticized the UN for not initiating enough real action against intolerance.
He stressed that there was far too much time spent assigning blame to xenophobia and not enough adequate solutions being sought to resolve it.
In concluding the assembly event, Lajcak admitted that “too often we did not have the courage to call things exactly what they are and to act accordingly.”
These timely remarks reflect a huge step for the UN, as Lajcak added that “we need to reflect on our inaction and indeed, failures.”
The UN assembly president concluded by stating that the time to inspire change has arrived and he urged the UN to act immediately when called on to do so.
Rather than take a step back, all dignitaries present, reminded everyone that taking a step forward is set to be a part of a new world order and that facing responsibility for actions previously not taken would be a major step in the right direction.