International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is an international memorial day on 27 January commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24 January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.
Prior to the 60/7 resolution, there had been national days of commemoration, such as Germany's Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (The Day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism), established in a proclamation issued by Federal President Roman Herzog on 3 January 1996; and the Holocaust memorial day observed every 27 January since 2001 in the UK.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a national event in the United Kingdom and in Italy.
Resolution 60/7 establishing 27 January as International Holocaust Remembrance Day urges every member nation of the U.N. to honor the memory of Holocaust victims, and encourages the development of educational programs about Holocaust history to help prevent future acts of genocide. It rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an event and condemns all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief. It also calls for actively preserving the Holocaust sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labor camps and prisons, as well as for establishing a U.N. programme of outreach and mobilization of society for Holocaust remembrance and education.
Resolution 60/7 and the International Holocaust Day was an initiative of the State of Israel. Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel, Silvan Shalom, was the head of the delegation of Israel to the United Nations.
The essence of the text lies in its twofold approach: one that deals with the memory and remembrance of those who were massacred during the Holocaust, and the other with educating future generations of its horrors.
The International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is thus a day on which we must reassert our commitment to human rights. [...]
We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the United Nations stands.
In 2006, 2007 and 2008, Holocaust Remembrance Weeks were organized by The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme. This programme is part of the Outreach Division of the United Nations Department of Public Information and was established under General Assembly resolution 60/7.
On 24 January, the opening of the Holocaust Remembrance Week took place at United Nations Headquarters with the unveiling of an exhibit "No Child's Play – Remembrance and Beyond" in the Visitors' Lobby. This travelling exhibit, produced by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem, opened a window into the world of children during the Shoah. It focused on toys, games, artwork, diaries and poems highlighting some of the personal stories of the children and providing a glimpse into their lives during the Holocaust. The exhibition told the story of survival – the struggle of these children to hold on to life.
On 27 January, the United Nations Department of Public Information held the first universal observance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day at United Nations Headquarters. In the General Assembly Hall a memorial ceremony and lecture was held under the theme "Remembrance and Beyond." It featured welcoming remarks by former Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information Shashi Tharoor; a videotaped message by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan; statements by the permanent representatives of Israel and Brazil to the United Nations, and by Gerda Weissmann Klein, holocaust survivor, author and historian Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation; narration of photographs of Holocaust victims memorialized on "Pages of Testimony" in the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; as well as a performance by The Zamir Chorale of Boston; and a lecture by Professor Yehuda Bauer, academic advisor to Yad Vashem, and the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
On 29 January, the second annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust was held in the General Assembly Hall at United Nations Headquarters.
Shasta Tharp, former Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, introduced a programme that began with a video message from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Statements were then made by Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, president of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, and Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations. The keynote "Remembrance and Beyond" address was given by Madame Simone Veil, a Holocaust survivor, president of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and a member of the Constitutional Council of France.
The observance focused on the importance of infusing today’s youth with the lessons of the Holocaust so that future generations may work to prevent hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice. Marie Noel, a student at the College of Saint Elizabeth, shared her experiences visiting former concentration camps in Poland.
The memorial ceremony also focused on the disabled community as one of the many victim groups of the Nazi regime. Thomas Schindlmayr of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs highlighted the importance of education in promoting tolerance and ending discrimination against all minorities, particularly in light of the adoption by the General Assembly on 13 December 2006 of the landmark Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Additionally, a musical performance was given by HaZamir: The International Jewish High School Chamber Choir, a project of the Zamir Choral Foundation, founded and directed by Matthew Lazar. Netanel Hershtik, cantor of the New York Synagogue, recited the Kaddish.
During the observance the United Nations Department of Public Information also launched a new website and resource for United Nations member states, educators and non-governmental organizations entitled "Electronic Notes for Speakers" developed for the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme by Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority, Jerusalem, and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education and the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. The electronic notes provide survivor testimony and information materials that will equip speakers with the tools needed to conduct briefings on the Holocaust and lessons to be learned from it.
The United Nations bookstore made available ten volumes of autobiographical accounts of Holocaust survivors published jointly by The Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project and Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes Remembrance Authority. An initiative of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust Survivors’ Memoirs Project has collected over 900 manuscripts. Its mission is to provide both the victims and the survivors of the Holocaust with the dignity of a permanent historical presence, not as impersonal statistics but as individuals with names, voices and emotions. The United Nations bookstore also had a discussion by Daniel Mendelsohn about his book The Lost: A Search for Six of the Six Million.
The Department of Public Information also marked the Holocaust Remembrance Week with two exhibits in the United Nations visitors’ lobby. The first, entitled "The Holocaust against the Sinti and Roma and Present Day Racism in Europe," focused on the experience of the Roma and Sinti during the Holocaust. The second exhibit featured artwork, created by Holocaust survivors, exploring the meaning and experience of the Holocaust.
On 31 January, a special screening of Volevo solo Vivere (I Only Wanted to Live), directed by Mimmo Calopresti took place. The film tells the moving story of nine Italian survivors of Auschwitz. The following day Nazvy svoie im'ia (Spell Your Name), directed by Serhiy Bukovsky, was also screened. The film, about the Holocaust in Ukraine, tells the story of local people who escaped brutal execution and those who rescued friends and neighbours during the Holocaust. Both films, produced by USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, were shown in the Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium. On 2 February, the third discussion paper in the Holocaust and Genocide series was published, about Hitler, Pol Pot and Hutu Power.
Throughout the week of 28 January 2008, the United Nations Department of Public Information organized a number of events around the world to remember the victims of the Holocaust and underscore the value of human life. The 2008 observance focused on the need to ensure the protection of human rights for all. It coincided with the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Holocaust Remembrance Day began with the joint launch of a new United Nations Holocaust Remembrance postage stamp issued simultaneously, for the first time, with a national stamp by the Israel Postal Company. The two stamps bear the same design.
On 28 January 2008, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the daughter of United States Congressman Tom Lantos, himself a Holocaust survivor, delivered a keynote address "Civic Responsibility and the Preservation of Democratic Values" at the memorial ceremony and concert held in the General Assembly Hall.
Other speakers included Srgjan Kerim (Macedonia), president of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, and Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.
The ceremony also featured a concert with the Tel Aviv University Buchmann-Mehta School of Music symphony orchestra in cooperation with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by maestro Zubin Mehta.
On 30 January 2008, the first permanent exhibit on the Holocaust and the United Nations was unveiled. Produced by the Holocaust and United Nations Outreach Programme, it presents an overview of the Holocaust in the context of World War II and the founding of the United Nations. It is seen by the 400,000 visitors who visit the United Nations Headquarters annually. In preparation for the exhibit opening, Elizabeth Edelstein, Director of Education for the Museum of Jewish Heritage, briefed the United Nations tour guides on the history of the Holocaust to further their understanding of this watershed event.
Around the world United Nations offices organized events to mark the Day of Commemoration. In Brazil, an observance was held on 25 January with the president of the country, Jose Inacio Lula da Silva, and the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, César Maia. In Madagascar, a permanent exhibit on the Holocaust was unveiled at the United Nations Information Centre.
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme also coordinated a video conference for students with the United Nations information centres in Antananarivo, Madagascar, and Lomé, Togo, and educators at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. At the United Nations office in Ukraine a round-table discussion was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Ukrainian Holocaust Study Centre. In Tokyo on 29 January, an educational workshop targeting young students focused on the links between the Holocaust and human rights issues.
Also, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provided information material in English and Spanish to a number of United Nations information centers for use in their reference libraries.
To help carry out its educational mission, the Department of Public Information participated in a panel discussion with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the afternoon of 28 January to highlight the importance of Holocaust education, organized by B'nai B'rith International.
The Department of Public Information also marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with two exhibits in the United Nations Visitors’ Lobby in New York on the attempts to save Jews from death by the Nazis during the Second World War. The first, entitled "BESA A Code of Honor: Muslim Albanians who Rescued Jews during the Holocaust" by photographer Norman Gershman, was authored and curated by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Albania to the United Nations.
A second exhibit, "Carl Lutz and the Legendary Glass House in Budapest," was co-sponsored by the Carl Lutz Foundation and the Permanent Missions of Switzerland and Hungary. Carl Lutz, the Swiss Vice-Consul in Budapest, had issued certificates of emigration to place tens of thousands of Jews under Swiss protection.
In Austria, commemorations of the Remembrance Day are held at the Heldenplatz in Vienna since 2012. The broad platform Jetzt Zeichen setzen! calls for participation of the civil society. Speakers include survivors of the Holocaust, antifascist activists and politicians hailing from parties throughout the political spectrum.
In Israel, there is a national memorial day in remembrance of the Holocaust, also known as Yom HaShoah, which is held on the 27th of Nisan. However, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is also held in Israel. Government officials, diplomats and ambassadors visit Yad Vashem and there are ceremonies held throughout the country.
Every year, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs presents the annual report on anti-Semitism before the Israeli government, as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The report reviews the main trends and incidents of the last year, in terms of anti-Semitism and combating anti-Semitism.