Originally posted on UN News Centre on January 17, 2015—
“During a memorial service in honour of victims of the Holocaust at the Park East Synagogue in New York today, Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said that preventing genocide required efforts to understand the forces behind it.
“The Holocaust did not start with Auschwitz,” said Mr. Eliasson in his speech. “It started with bias, discrimination, looking down on people, the anti-Semitic slogans and laws that preceded Kristallnacht, and with rallies which provided both an identity and a cause, however perverted, for people who evidently needed both.”
Mr. Eliasson related his own experience as a child seeing images from Nazi death camps and responding with the thought that such suffering should never be allowed to happen again.
The same “Never Again” response to the horrors of the Holocaust was a major part of the UN’s formative experience, paying tribute to all Holocaust survivors, including those present at the memorial.
“We are grateful and humble, and we are inspired by your example of the resilience of the human spirit,” he said, adding that “disbelief and incomprehension” surround the Holocaust and genocides committed since, including those in Rwanda and Srebrenica.
“Every time we say ‘never again,’ we are in fact admitting failure to prevent,” he said, noting that a gap remained between international rhetoric and action and point to “terrible acts of inhumanity” in Iraq, Syria, the Central African Republic and Nigeria.
“The seeds of discrimination, racism and hatred are planted and often allowed to grow. People too often turn away instead of up-rooting these seeds,” he said calling for earlier action to prevent situations escalating to violence and the point of no return. “Preventing genocide must not begin when we are witnessing atrocities that fit the definition of genocide.””
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