Bearing Witness, 60 Years On

Speaking at the United Nations, a Nobel Laureate and Auschwitz survivor calls on the world to remember the Nazi death camps.

For the first time in the history of the United Nations, the General Assembly commemorated the victims of the Holocaust in a special session on January 24, 2005. Speakers at the gathering, held three days before the 60th anniversary of the Allied liberation of the Nazi death camps, included Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Russia's commissioner for human rights Vladimir Lukin, and Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor whose writings chronicle the Nazi horrors. Wiesel's remarks follow.

Mr. President of the General Assembly, Mr. Secretary-General my friend, excellencies:

The man who stands before you this morning feels deeply privileged. A teacher and writer, he speaks and writes as a witness to a crime committed in the heart of European Christendom and civilization by a brutal dictatorial regime-a crime of unprecedented cruelty in which all segments of government participated

When speaking about that era of darkness, the witness encounters difficulties. His words become obstacles rather than vehicles; he writes not with words but against words. For there are no words to describe what the victims felt when death was the norm and life a miracle. Still, whether you know it or not, his memory is part of yours.


I speak to you as a son of an ancient people, the only people of antiquity to have survived antiquity, the Jewish people which, throughout much of its history, has endured exile and oppression yet has never given up hope of redemption

As a young adolescent, he saw what no human being should have to see: the triumph of political fanaticism and ideological hatred for those who were different. He saw multitudes of human beings humiliated, isolated, tormented, tortured, and murdered. They were overwhelmingly Jews but there were others. And those who committed these crimes were not vulgar underworld thugs but men with high government, academic, industrial, and medical positions in Germany. In recent years, that nation has become a true democracy. But the question remains open: In those dark years, what motivated so many brilliant and committed public servants to invent such horrors? By its scope and magnitude, by its sheer weight of numbers, by the impact of so much humiliation and pain, in spite of being the most documented tragedy in the annals of history, Auschwitz still defies language and understanding.

Let me evoke those times:

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