‘Let Us Forever Keep Memory of Past Alive — and Never Let Others Forget Either,’ Says Secretary-General at Holocaust Remembrance Event

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the exhibition “Yad Vashem Book of Names”, in New York today:

It is an honour to be with all of you.

I will never forget my first visit to Yad Vashem many decades ago — and I was even more impressed when I saw the renovated and expanded museum complex that I visited as Secretary-General.

I want to thank Yad Vashem for bringing this deeply moving exhibition to the United Nations, which goes to the heart of your vital mission:  to give the millions who perished “an everlasting name”:  a “yad vashem”.

Among the first actions the Nazis took in their campaign of discrimination, exclusion and ultimately annihilation of European Jews was to target names.

In the 1930s, German Jews were forced to adopt an additional name:  For men it was “Israel”, for women “Sarah”.  And when a prisoner arrived in Auschwitz, their name was erased and replaced with a number burnt on the forearm.

First robbed of their names, then of their lives.  No cemeteries, no headstones, no traces remain.  The 6 million Jewish children, men, and women are lost forever.  But their memory — and their names — shall never be forgotten.

This exhibition is a call to action:  some 1 million victims remain unidentified, and we are racing against time.  It is a call to remembrance:  as fewer and fewer can bear direct witness, we will have to find new ways to carry the torch of remembrance forward.  Within families and across generations.  Within classrooms and across geographies.

And this exhibition is a call to reflection:  to see in each child, woman, and man who perished, a human being with hopes and dreams — not a faceless, nameless victim.  And it is a call to all of us:  our world today is not immune to the poison of hate — the hate that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.

Together, let us stem the tide of human cruelty and fight antisemitism and all forms of racism wherever and whenever it manifests itself.  Let us forever keep the memory of the past alive — and never let others forget either.

Seeing this exhibition, I was reminded of the words of the poet Benjamin Fondane, who was murdered at Auschwitz, and who I would like to quote in closing, and I quote:  “Remember only that I was innocent and, just like you, mortal on that day, I, too, had had a face marked by rage, by pity and joy, quite simply, a human face.”

For information media. Not an official record.