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Statement by the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Camp of Auschwitz

26-01-2005 - “For the first time in its history, the General Assembly of the United Nations has decided to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of the nazi concentration camps, lest the world ever forgets what it failed to prevent.

With this decision, we are reminded that, although we may have moved into a new century, and a new millennium, the world community cannot put the darkest pages of the twentieth century behind it for good.

Sixty years to the day after the liberation of the Camp of Auschwitz, when the veil was lifted on the evil that had led to the extermination of six million Jews, the threads of memory are still bound up in the tapestry of the present. For those, now in their twilight years, who lived through that darkness and long remained silent, this anniversary is their last opportunity to bear witness. We have a duty to listen to them because we must pass on the memory of the suffering and of those camps if we are to continue promoting what the notions of humankind, of freedom, of human dignity really stand for.

UNESCO, founded on the rubble of the Second World War in response to a yearning for universal peace and cooperation, daily proclaims its faith in the dignity and the value of human beings, in equality between woman and man. It is our duty to honour and respect that yearning. As we turn to the future, we must keep that promise, and keep making it. Now and in the future, as Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphatically stated, we must continue to carry our struggle against all forms of oblivion, intolerance or discrimination to every corner of the earth.

Our consciences are haunted by the tale of how Evil once became something ordinary. We must tirelessly learn, and learn again, to grieve over the cruelties of a century gone by. But in that sad tale, if told, passed on and taught a thousand times, I also see, and commend to each of you, our capacity to share a memory and make our peace.”





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