Dr. Joan Lurie Goldberg and Judy Mintz, ICJW Representatives to the United Nations in New York, participated in a number of events to mark International Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2023. Here is their report.
Outreach Program on the Holocaust: Theme: Home and Belonging
Exploring how victims adjusted their ideas of “home” and “belonging” as they faced the violent, antisemitic onslaught during the Holocaust, and what “home” and “belonging” meant to survivors in the immediate post-war years is the theme of this year’s commemoration. In 1933, the Nazi Party took control of the government of Germany and put its ideology into practice, identifying who could claim Germany as home and who belonged. The process of definition and exclusion went beyond legislation and propaganda campaigns of disinformation and hate speech, to state-sanctioned acts of terror that destroyed people’s places of worship, livelihood and homes. The definition of who belonged and who did not, soon extended to all who fell within the expanding borders of the Nazi Reich and was reproduced by collaborator governments.
The Nazis and their racist collaborators rendered many millions homeless and stateless before and during the Second World War. We consider how those who sought refuge from 1933 negotiated the meaning of “home” and “belonging”. We consider those who survived by hiding and the impact of this experience on their sense of “home”. We will examine the ways in which survivors as displaced persons in displaced persons’ camps, and the children born in these camps, navigated the post-War world – a world in which the meaning of “home” and “belonging” had been challenged radically by the perpetrators of the Holocaust.
Holocaust remembrance and education that includes opportunities to develop a deeper appreciation of the victims and survivors and their agency, can inform our response to the plight of contemporary victims. Placing the victims and survivors in the center of historical research, learning and remembrance illuminates the humanity of victims of atrocities today, and the impact of antisemitism fueled by disinformation and the distortion of history. Focusing on the humanity of the victims prompts us to remember our humanity, and our responsibility to combat hate speech, combat antisemitism and prejudice – to do all we can to prevent genocide.
Calendar of Events: From January 27 to February 16, 2023
- #FakeImages: Unmask the Dangers of Stereotypes
- After the End of the World: Displaced Persons and Displaced Persons Camps
- The Yad Vashem Book of Names of Holocaust Victims
- United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony
- International Mock Trial on Human Rights
- Film Screening: “The US and the Holocaust” and Panel Discussion
- “Social Media and the Holocaust-Education or Distortion?”
International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust: United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony
1-27-23, General Assembly Hall, United Nations Headquarters, New York
Reported by Joan Lurie Goldberg and Judy Mintz for ICJW
Ms. Melissa Fleming, Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications
- Ms. Fleming reminded us that the Holocaust began with misinformation and hate speech that soon turned into genocide.
Mr. Antonio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General
- The Secretary-General expressed his deep gratitude to the survivors for their participation, courage and inspiration.
- The Holocaust was made possible because of indifference-too few listened and too few spoke up.
- Antisemitism is everywhere around the world. It has become the #1 internal threat in many countries.
- Extremism and bigotry are often spread online and through social media.
- Hate speech often leads to hate crimes.
- We must conquer indifference with engagement and misinformation with education.
- We need member countries to accept and agree upon a Code of Conduct.
His Excellency Mr. Csaba Korosi, President of the 77th session of the General Assembly
- Survivors and their families know better than anyone why we must continue to remember the Holocaust:
- We remember the horrors and those who died.
- We remember those who helped save people.
- His Grandparents were rescuers.
- The UN hall in which we sit for this ceremony is meant to stand for “Never Again”.We hear more and more antisemitism and see it everywhere; distortion and denial of the Holocaust are also seen more and more. We need to react to all this hate; in particular to push back against the tsunami of online hate. We have hard photographic evidence of the atrocities of the Shoah; we should use it to discredit distortion and denial.
H.E. Mr. Gilad Erdan, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations
- The Holocaust was the darkest moment in history.
- The hatred was a result of lies that were repeated over and over.
- He urged us all to stand up to violence.
- He thanked G-d for the existence of Israel.
- The Ambassador spoke honestly and forcefully when he stated that the United Nations was created as a result of the Holocaust but today it often ignores its purpose. Just words are not enough to combat hate and bigotry. Education is needed.
- The Human Rights Council, other UN agencies (especially UNRA-United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and UNHCR-UN Refugee Agency), and even UN employees single out Israel with bashing. There is no condemnation of such a double standard.
- Jew hatred is “loud”. Words must be followed by action. Verbal support is only a 1st step. It is a collective duty to counter denial and distortion.
H.E. Mr. Richard Mills, Jr., Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN
He thanked all those who came to this ceremony to tell their stories. He started by relating the plight of the survivors in the aftermath of their release:
- Survivors could not return home. Their homes might be occupied or gone. They knew their neighbors had collaborated with the Nazis.
- President Truman allowed some survivors into the US in late 1945. The 1948 Displaced Persons act further expanded the quotas for survivors. He related the plight of the 937 German Jews on the St. Louis which was not permitted to land in Havana or the US when it arrived in June, 1939. The refugees were sent back to Europe where many were murdered in the Holocaust. One who survived related the heartbreak of seeing his relatives row out into Havana harbor to greet the passengers. During the war, the US State Department made it harder and harder to grant refuge to Jewish escapees. Despite a total lack of evidence, State Department personnel claimed the Jews were a security risk.
- He then praised the Biden/Harris administration for helping survivors. The administration is also facing rising antisemitism:
- 2021 saw more anti-Jewish hate crimes than any year prior.
- The resurgence of antisemitism is fed by the online rants of celebrities and others.
- We must fight back.
Mr. Jacques Grishaver, Survivor of the Shoah
He related his own experiences in the context of Dutch Jewry then and now.
- He was born in March, 1942 in Amsterdam and survived because he was taken in by Gentiles
- Much of his family was murdered at Auschwitz.
- 140,000 Dutch Jews obeyed German orders, wore yellow stars and were deported.
- Only 30,000 Dutch Jews survived; 75% were murdered, one of the highest percentages in Europe. Of 107,000 Jews deported from Amsterdam only 5000 returned.
- His grandfather, a leader of the community was able to save his children, parents of Jacques.
- When surviving Dutch Jews returned after the war they found no welcome, no understanding.
- In 1956, surviving Dutch Jews founded a community.
- In 1998 Mr. Grishaver became the chair of the Dutch Jewish Community; there is still a need to fight antisemitism. It exists even in the Dutch parliament.
- In December, 2021 the national Holocaust Monument was dedicated in the heart of the capital – the names of those murdered are written on it. Mr. Grishaver has many awards and was behind the building of this Monument.
Professor Ethel Brooks, Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies at Rutgers University
- Brooks’ field of expertise is research into what happened to the Roma and Sinti during the Holocaust.
- She is dedicated to their remembrance and to honoring them. These groups must be included in Holocaust discussions.
- The groups still experience violence today. We must all work for a better world.
- She believes in telling their stories and calling them by name. They are much more than just a number.
Professor Deborah Dwork, Keynote Speaker, Founding Director, Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, City University of New York
- A part of Dwork’s field of expertise is the impact of the Holocaust on children. She wrote the acclaimed book: Children With a Star.
- She reminded us that after the war ended the horrors did not. Old lives were over and new lives were often filled with the death of family, loneliness, a loss of everything including homes, possessions, and wealth.
- Liberation did not create an easy life. There was a great sense in the children that no one was left to care about them.
Professor Karen Frostig, Lesley and Brandeis Universities
- Frostig often wondered about her grandparents (Moses and Beile Samuely Frostig) whose passport pictures were displayed in her living room but never spoken about. She went on to conduct research and discovered that they were murdered in Jungfernhof concentration camp in Latvia.
- She honors her grandparents’ memory by sharing their story. She’s dedicated to working with the Latvian government to conduct research, to recognize what happened there during the Holocaust and to set aside the location of the camp as a memorial.
- Mr. Michael Shaham
A very moving moment of this year’s ceremony was the performance played by Michael Shaham on one of the Violins of Hope while his grandfather watched from home in Israel. This violin had belonged to Hana Asher. She was in the resistance in Amsterdam and organized hiding places for many Jews in Holland during the war. Hana survived the war and lived to be 101.
- Professor Renee Jolles – violinist performing a piece composed by Dr. Victoria Bond for the Memorial Ceremony
- Ms. Shoshana Shattenkirk – vocalist who sang Hashkiveinu
- Cantor Nissim Saal: Chanted the Memorial Prayer El Maleh Rachamim
Opening of Exhibition: The Yad Vashem Book of Names of Holocaust Victims
Reported by Joan Lurie Goldberg
This event, held in the ECOSOC chamber of the UN, was to celebrate the opening of the exhibit at the UN. The Book, currently in the lobby of the UN in New York, contains all the known Holocaust victims’ names and whatever is known about their lives. There are 4,800,000 names in this book which will ultimately be on exhibit at Yad Vashem.
Secretary General Guterres was the first speaker and thanked Yad Vashem for the exhibit. He related that all Jews were given names by the Nazis – women were Sarah and men were Israel. The six million Jews murdered are lost forever but will be remembered by their real names.
Ambassador Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, related his family story. His grandfather and grandmother had eight children; all were transported to Auschwitz from Transylvania. Only his grandmother and her oldest daughter survived. All others were murdered immediately on arrival at Auschwitz.
This exhibit, he said, comes at a crucial time as Holocaust Denial and Distortion are growing everywhere, particularly on the internet, at terrifying speed. The tragedy of the Holocaust was enabled because the Jewish people had nowhere to go. Now, the UN has a special responsibility to fight Denial and Distortion and Jew Hatred in general. The time for words is past; we need action.
Dani Dayan, Chairman of Yad Vashem, formerly Israel’s Consul General in New York discussed the Book of Names project. His great uncles were victims and have been recorded. Every victim deserves no less. All known information about victims is recorded. In this era of increasing antisemitism this is especially important.
A short film about Yad Vashem was shown. Yad Vashem has worked on the names project since the 1950s; currently there are 4,800,000 names in the book. These memories breathe life into every name.
International Mock Trial on Human Rights in the ECOSOC Chamber-United Nations Headquarters
Reported by Joan Lurie Goldberg and Judy Mintz
In the opening remarks from Ms. Melissa Fleming (Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications), H.E. Mr. Gilad Erdan (Permanent Representative of Isarael to the UN), Ms. Marija Vasileva-Blazev (Special Advisor on Youth) and Dr. Avi Omer (founder of SEF), important thoughts were shared:
- The purpose of today’s program was to achieve historical justice for the crimes Ernst Rudin committed.
- We must all work against Holocaust denial, falsehoods, and distortion with action-especially education.
- The young participants were called upon to be future ethical and social leaders and to combat racism and antisemitism.
By using a mock trial as a vehicle, Nazi Ernst Rudin’s crimes were exposed. It was based on historical fact with three respected Honorable Judges and students taking the roles of prosecutors, defense attorneys and expert witnesses.
Background of the accused-Ernest Rudin:
Rudin helped formulate the 1933 Nazi “Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases” that legalized the forced sterilization of some 400,000 Germans between 1934 and 1939. Rudin helped to implement the so-called “T4 program”, the first mass murder committed under National Socialism. Rudin was directly involved in the killing of children in order to conduct post-mortem research. Because of a loophole in the law, Rudin was never prosecuted for his crimes. He died of natural causes in Munich in 1952.
The Mock Trial:
In an imagined courtroom, 32 students between 15 and 22 years old, from nine countries, interrogated the so-called father of Nazi Racial Hygiene, ardent Nazi Ernst Rudin. A psychiatrist, geneticist, eugenicist, racist and antisemite. He was responsible for untold suffering and death. Facts and evidence were presented to prove his guilt. On trial was the right for those most vulnerable to be protected from harm; the responsibility of leadership and the place of ethics within the sciences. It covered the subjects of human rights violations, racism and discrimination. It explored how leaders, including scientists, must be responsible for their actions.
Background of the Youth Participants:
The International Mock Trial on Human Rights is organized by The Social Excellence Forum (SEF). The students met virtually and in person. They came from Romania, Israel, Morocco, South Africa, Philippines, Italy, USA, Colombia, Germany and Liberia. The group represented diversity in religion and backgrounds. They received training to become agents of change and future leaders in the fields of ethics and human rights values.