Holocaust Remembrance Day

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is annually observed on the 27th of January. It’s a solemn commemoration of the Holocaust which is considered to be the darkest period during the Nazi regime wherein millions of Jews including all other cultural minorities are brutally killed in mass concentration camps across the German-occupied Europe. The primary objective of the holiday is to honor both the deceased and surviving victims as well as to promote awareness of the Holocaust worldwide.

Origin and significance of the holiday

On November 1, 2005, the United Nations General Assembly has formally designated January 27 as the day of the holocaust commemoration through UN resolution 60/7. 27th of January was also specifically chosen because it was the day of liberation for Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration or extermination camp nicknamed as “The Death Factory.”

All UN member states and offices observe the holiday with their own respective events and activities but from 2010, the UN started designating specific annual themes to focus on. Here are the themes from 2010 up to this year’s commemoration:

  • 2010 – Holocaust survivors
  • 2011 – Experiences of women during the Holocaust
  • 2012 – Children and the Holocaust
  • 2013 – The heroes who saved thousands of lives from certain death
  • 2014 – Journeys through the Holocaust
  • 2015 – Holocaust shaping the foundation of the UN
  • 2016 – UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the
                         Holocaust
  • 2017 – Holocaust Remembrance: Educating for a Better Future
  • The UN charter which established the holiday also stressed the reasons why the annual commemoration is observed. The holiday primarily aims to remember and honor the Holocaust victims. Second is the development of educational programs or materials about the Holocaust and its lessons. Related to this is the establishment of a Holocaust and the United Nations outreach program to be able to achieve said education purpose. It also rejects any denial about the veracity of Holocaust and urges the preservation of Holocaust or Nazi-related artifacts and sites like the concentration, labor and prison camps.

    The resolution also condemns ethnic or religious discrimination as it states “Condemns without reserve all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, wherever they occur.” But ultimately, all these aspects point to the aim of preventing a similar case of genocide today and in the future.

    Top commemoration day activities this 2017

    Commemoration activities differ from one place or venue to another but traditionally, the Holocaust is remembered through museum or artifact exhibitions, audio visual presentations and most commonly with speeches and talks from the survivors and top leaders. For this year, among the top activities scheduled at the UN headquarters in New York are as follows:

    January 23 – An exhibit entitled “Education and Remembrance. The Holocaust in Romania” shall be opened at the UN Conference Building focusing on the commemorative and educational initiatives done by Romania since the Holocaust.

    January 24 – Opening of the exhibit “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda” at the General Assembly Building showcasing how Nazis used propaganda to justify their plans to exterminate the Jews and other minorities.

    January 25 – Film screening of the movie “Persona Non Grata” at the UN Conference Room 4. The film portrays the heroic acts of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara who issued visas to Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust.

    January 26 – Experts will hold a forum at Conference Room 1 examining how the Nazis successfully used propaganda to gain power and influence.

    -Film screening of Jacob the Liar at the UN Czech Center. The movie tells another heroic act of Jacob Heym a ghetto inhabitant who created and spread news of a looming rescue by the Soviets to uplift the spirits of people in despair.

    January 27 – The official UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony with key speakers shall be held at the General Assembly Hall.

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