International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

unacto127th of January is the day designated by the General Assembly of the United Nations as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp and its purpose is to instil the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again. Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations General Assembly reaffirms that ‘the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of one-third of the Jewish people along with countless members of other minorities, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice“.

Since the Holocaust, genocide prevention has become central to human rights discourse.  The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, signed in Paris, 9 December 1948 defines “Genocide” as:
Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group (

Berlin Holocaust Memorial
Berlin Holocaust Memorial

“Never Again,” first proclaimed following the Holocaust – has become both a uniting slogan and an embarrassing lie. The massacres in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur have all occurred since the Holocaust, preventable atrocities that have occurred as a result of the international community’s failure to act. Human Rights, rather than bureaucratic red tape or national interest ought to be the central focus moving forward. United to End Genocide outlines six countries currently at risk: Burma, the DRC, Libya, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria. The endurance of these conflicts is demonstrative of their complexities; however, this warning emphasizes the critical urgency required in reducing tensions, encouraging peace and fostering stability.

After Genocide: The Significance of Transitional Justice &  the Nuremberg Trials

In order to heal and prevent the likelihood of conflict and gross human rights violations in the future, transitional justice mechanisms emphasizing justice, truth, reconciliation and reconstruction are critical.

The Nuremberg trials, an ad-hoc tribunal established in order to prosecute Nazi war criminals played a defining role in the establishment of future judicial measures addressing gross human rights abuses, such as the International Criminal Court. However, court proceedings alone are not sufficient to redress the atrocities that occur in times of genocide. The complexities of post-conflict settings require a holistic, multifaceted approach addressing the social, cultural, historical and economic and international factors that lead to violence. Accordingly, Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, reparations and other projects,  alongside judicial measures must be pursued. Not a “one-size fits all” approach, but rather a specific, nationally focused process, transitional justice measures are critical to avoiding relapses of violence, and most importantly, in helping to redress the factors that led to conflict in the first place. Victim recognition and support is crucial to this process.
(Film Recommendation: Judgement at Nuremberg)

Holocaust Remembrance Events, at the United Nations and in Vancouver

On Tuesday, January 27 2015, there were several ceremonies all around the world in observance of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau.

In particular, the 2015 observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust coincides with two milestone events: the anniversary of the Second World War’s end and the founding of the United Nations.

The Organization’s establishment seven decades ago in 1945 reflects how deeply it was shaped by the experience of the Holocaust. This year’s events include the annual ceremony, exhibits, a film screening, discussions and a special exhibit that recognizes the work of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme since its creation 10 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly.

The United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony was held at the UN Headquarters in New York and included remarks from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, and H. E. Ms. Samantha Power, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations.

The memorial ceremony also recognized the 10th Anniversary of the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 7.55.31 PMIf you want to commemorate this day in Vancouver, you can visit the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.

The centre is currently hosting a new teaching exhibit “Carl Lutz and the Legendary Glass House in Budapest”, that illustrates a little-known story of diplomatic rescue and moral courage during the Holocaust in Hungary.

On Sunday, January 25, 2015, at 7 PM, the centre screened Numbered, a documentary film by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai.
It was followed by candle lighting in memory of those who perished.

For more information, visit the United to End Genocide Page:


Post by UNAC-Vancouver website writers Brittney Potvin and Sabrina Miso.