21 January 2015 – During a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp today, United Nations Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson called for reflection on how better to prevent horrific crimes witnessed during the Holocaust and other genocides.
“It is important that we examine why we continue to fail to prevent mass atrocities, despite lessons learned, despite knowledge of causes and drivers and despite our assurances of ‘never again,’” he said. “Genocide can only happen when we ignore the warning signs – and are unwilling to take action.”
The event, held at UN Headquarters in New York and organized by the Permanent Mission of Poland to the UN and chaired by Boguslaw Winid, preceded the annual International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust.
The permanent representatives to the UN of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Rwanda, Israel and Germany were among those who spoke, with the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on Genocide, Adama Dieng, Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch and Robert Kostro, who is Director of the Museum of Polish History.
Mr. Eliasson said the event offered a chance to consider what must be done differently to protect people and build societies ‘where tolerance trumps hatred,’ and stressed that excuses for turning a blind eye were disappearing, with pervasive instant communication and deepening international connections, as well as the knowledge that genocide results from creeping processes unfolding over time and of conditions that allow them to thrive.
“Our challenge is to stop these processes and their enabling conditions at an early stage,” Mr. Eliasson said, adding that armed conflicts often create environments right for mass atrocities but stressing that genocide also resulted from divisions fostered in peace time.