January 27, 2006

Holocaust survivors warn U.N. on today’s genocides

By Daniel Trotta

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Survivors commemorated the
Holocaust at the United Nations on Friday with harrowing
accounts of the period and pleas to halt acts of genocide like
that of Darfur today.

The ceremony marked the first of what is to become an
annual U.N. event and took place in the General Assembly hall,
where 191 world governments daily debate current atrocities
that experts compared to the Holocaust. The 60th anniversary of
the Holocaust had been commemorated last year.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan and others denounced those who
deny the Holocaust as bigots. Separate from the ceremony, Iran
issued a statement accusing Israel of manipulating genocide for
political purposes.

Survivors and experts stressed the importance of never
forgetting that the Germans systematically killed six million
Jews and millions of others including Poles, homosexuals,
Russians, Gypsies and Catholics during World War II.

"If you the leaders of the world remember -- and teach
others to remember -- the Holocaust and atrocities like Darfur,
Biafra and Kosovo will have no place on the face of the earth,"
said Roman Kent, chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish
Survivors of the Holocaust.

Added researcher Yehuda Bauer: "The Jews were the specific
victims of the Holocaust. But the implications are universal.
Who knows who the Jews might be next time?"

Polish-born concentration camp survivor Gerda Weissmann
Klein, 81, spoke of subsequent genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda
in an address that drew tears and standing ovations. She also
recalled her liberation by the U.S. Army.

"Here was this handsome young American officer. He held the
door open for me and let me precede him. In this beautiful,
symbolic gesture, he restored me to humanity again. This first
young American became my beloved husband of 56 years," Klein
told the hall, filled with dignitaries and the general public.

Annan, in a taped message from Switzerland, where he was
attending the World Economic Forum, called on the audience to
reject the claims of those who deny the Holocaust.

An Iranian statement circulated at the United Nations on
Friday condemned genocide but called for such historical events
to be addressed with "scientific scrutiny."

"Regrettably, the Zionist regime has routinely attempted to
exploit the sufferings of the Jewish people in the past as a
cover for its crime being perpetrated today against
Palestinians," the statement said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew international
condemnation last year for saying "we don't accept this claim"
of the Holocaust and that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Israel is among the leaders of a global campaign to stop Iran
from building nuclear weapons.