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Posted on on January 28th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Extermination Camp at Auschwitz Was Liberated By The Soviet Army on January 27, 1945.

That date was now generally accepted as the memorial date for the Holocaust. This in part as thanks for the Soviets having ended this Nazi killing machine, and in part in deference to the Western allies’ contention that until faced with the reality that became visible with the opening of the Auschwitz gates by the Soviet Army, supposedly, the atrocities that were happening inside were not known to the Western leaders. Nevertheless, something had to be learned from this reality – the fact that the world stood still and did not try to destroy the camps by bombing them or bombing the railroads that were used to transport the human fodder to this killing machine.

Thus, from the ashes of the Holocaust was born the UN – a body intended not to allow such inhuman behavior as shown possible by the Nazi extermination machine – a behavior, that with our respect for animals, we will not dare to call on these pages as beastly.

Today, Saturday, January 26, 2008, 63 years later, at the Park East Synagogue in New York City, the President of the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Minister Dr. Srgjan Kerim, from a country that the UN has not had yet the courage to call by the name its people chose to call themselves, Macedonia, and in UN jargon is called The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), made the following observation:

“Dear Friends and members of Park East Beit Knesset,

The United Nations was founded on the ashes of the Holocaust, when the world was in need of hope for a better future.

It was created to embody that hope as a promise to humanity. However, most disturbingly, since the Holocaust there have been genocide and serious crimes against humanity in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia.

That these atrocities occurred is not necessarily the failure of the United Nations as an organization; but rather, represents the lack of collective will of its Member States to take the decision to act or intervene.

Even while we gather here, there are places – like Darfur – where people suffer from the very crimes, which, time and time again, we vowed would never again happen.”

Further, President Kerim comments included the observations that “terrorism, violence, rape, murder, poverty and discrimination on the rounds of race or religion continue to be part of everyday lives of many people. He reminded the people assembled at the Synagogue of the 2005 UNGA resolution on the “Responsibility To Protect” – this as the commitment that all nations took upon themselves to hold themselves accountable for their responsibilities to their peoples. He concluded then with Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s saying that: “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere . . . . Whatever affects one directly, affects all directly.”

Above are surely great statements, but we also believe that for an institution that professes to act according to consensus, the fact that there is no “collective will of its Member States to take decision to act or intervene,” reduces significantly its practical value as a tool of making good.

A very appropriate example of what we have in mind is the fact that it took full 60 years to get this institution that was created from the ashes of the Holocaust, to even recognize within its wall the Holocaust with a special memorial.
It was only November 1, 2005, as part of its 60th years anniversary, that A/RES/60/7 – RESOLVES THAT THE UNITED NATIONS WILL DESIGNATE 27 JANUARY AS AN ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL DAY OF COMMEMORATION IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST. So, the first such commemoration was held in 2006, and this year there will be the third commemoration. In effect there is this year a whole week-long series of commemorations.

It started on Monday this week with an exhibition arranged by the Russian Mission to the United Nations with the presence of some heavily decorated warriors from among the troops that are WWII veterans. Then this coming Monday, January 28, 2008, there will be the release of a special UN stamp to honor the Holocaust, with the Minister of Communications of Israel, Mr. Ariel Atias, present, and in the evening, in the Hall of the General Assembly, there will be a Memorial Ceremony and concert with the participation of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta. Interestingly, the launching of the UN postal stamp is within an agreed joint release of a National Holocaust remembrance stamp of the State of Israel. Also, before the evening concert, US congressman Tom Lantos, himself a Hungarian Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, will lecture the UN on: “Civic Responsibility and Preservation of Democratic Values.”

Now, why did it take 60 years for the UN to realize that it owes its own existence to the Holocaust? That clearly has something to do with the Arab States opposing any attention to be paid to Jews and to Israel, and the rest of a large majority at the UN not having had the courage to stand up as a matter of principle. At various times – Saudis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Malaysians, Syrians, Iranians … made derogatory statements and Israel was left in limbo at the UN.
Things may change now for the Member State Israel, but will it change in what relates to Jews being able to live freely in a country like Saudi Arabia? If that does not change, so how can life for folks in Darfur change within Sudan?
What about the second anti-semitic/anti-Israeli UN sponsored conference at Durban? So far as we know, only the US and Canada said – No! Thank you!

The UN is very far from ideal – it is just as good an organization as its lowest common denominator allows it to be – but individual States, and individual people, that is a different matter – and some of the best showed up, today, Saturday January, 26, 2008, at the Park East Synagogue, where part of the service, there was the following event:




Present were about 25 survivors of concentration and extermination camps – including some survivors of Auschwitz. The Rabbi himself, originally from Vienna, Rabbi Arthur Schneier is a survivor of Auschwitz. Besides the President of the UN General Assembly, present was the Foreign Minister of Australia – Mr. Stephen Smith, the Vice Mayor of Vienna – Ms. Renate Brauner, 16 Ambassadors to the UN, including Albania, Austria, and Turkey, many Consuls General and other members of the Diplomatic Corps.

Going over the biographical notes of the Honorable Dr. Kerim and his speech before the Congregation at Park East Synagogue, I found that his father helped amidst the terror of the Nazi occupation of the Balkans, his school friend Isac Sion and his family, subsequently, the father and Isac Sion joined Macedonian freedom fighters and the National Liberation Movement to fight alongside the Allies. Isac survived and had then important positions in Yugoslavia’s economy.

Addressing the survivors in the audience, the Minister said: “Not only have you survived, but you have rebuilt communities all over the world, become stronger, and enabled future generations to thrive. You just have to look around at all the people gathered here today to recognize this fact.

The recognition of this day of Holocaust remembrance by the international community heralded a change of tide at the United Nations; and, a step forward in the collective memory and conscience of our world.”

He also read an excerpt of a poem “Temple” that he wrote after having visited the Park East Synagogue for the first time – five years ago:

“I’ve always believed
There’s nothing greater in a temple
Than the final sounds meting
In the concluding Amin
Until I heard the word
Of a great friend of mine
Who walked in the steps of Moses
And is called a Rabbin.”


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