UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Monday held a solemn ceremony at the UN General Assembly Hall to pay tribute to the 6 million Jews and countless others massacred in the Nazi Holocaust about seven decades ago.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of the perils of anti- Semitism and hatred of any kind.
"The United Nations was founded to prevent any such horror from happening again. Yet tragedies from Cambodia to Rwanda to Srebrenica show that the poison of genocide still flows," said Ban in a video message marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, which is observed every year on Jan. 27, the date on which Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the worst German Nazi concentration and extermination camps, was liberated in 1945.
The secretary-general recalled his own visit to the camp in November as he walked through the "infamous" gate bearing the metal slogan "arbeit macht frei" (work makes [you] free) and stood near the crematoria that burned the corpses of so many victims. "I will never forget my visit," he said.
"I saw the horrific remnants of the machinery of genocide, as well as moving images of European Jewish life in the 1930s -- weddings, family meals, rituals, other scenes of simple daily life -- all extinguished through systematic murder unique in human history."
"I saw the barracks where Jews, Roma, Sinti, homosexuals, dissidents, prisoners of war and persons with disabilities spent their final days in the most brutal conditions," he added, calling for unflagging vigilance against bigotry, extremist ideologies, communal tensions and discrimination against minorities.
The General Assembly met to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps on Jan. 24, 2005. Following this session, a UN resolution was drafted to designate Jan. 27 as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. The resolution called for education programs on the Holocaust to help prevent genocide. It also rejected denials that the Holocaust occurred. On Nov. 1, 2005, the assembly adopted this resolution so the day could be observed each year. The Holocaust Memorial Day was first observed on Jan. 27, 2006.
It is hoped that through remembering these events, people will remember the Holocaust and prevent genocide.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who recalled her own visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, has a "simple message" for all those who deny that the Holocaust happened, or who engage in anti-Semitism and other forms of religious, racial or ethnic intolerance or discrimination.
"Visit this historic and terrible place," she said in a message marking the Day. "It is a truly humbling and harrowing experience to feel the chill of evil and immense tragedy that permeates its walls and grounds. It is important to feel -- not just to know in an abstract way -- where such behaviour can lead."
She also stressed the imperative of reacting quickly and firmly to discrimination and violence against individuals and entire communities wherever they occur.
Pillay noted that despite the revelation of the full horror of the Holocaust, the flames of hatred and persecution have risen again to consume other countries, people and societies -- from the killing fields of Cambodia, to the forests of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the hills of Rwanda.
"Even today, in many places around the world, people are persecuted or discriminated against because of their race, religion, origin, sexual orientation or political opinions, and in countries such as Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, people are still being maimed and slaughtered because of the group to which they belong," she warned. "We need to stop turning a blind eye to the warning signs of serious human rights violations whenever and wherever they appear. That much, at least, we can do to honour all those millions murdered en masse by their fellow human beings, who attempted to justify war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide with hate-inspired political philosophies and propaganda."
In opening the commemorative ceremony, John W. Ashe, the president of the 193-member General Assembly, stressed that the Day underscored the international community's determination that " such unfathomable horror and unspeakable cruelty" would have no place in this world.