To commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the United Nations held a memorial ceremony in New York City at General Assembly Hall. Opening remarks were given by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and other speakers included: Ambassador Danny Danon, permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, Ambassador Samantha Power, permanent representative of the United States, Nazi-Hunter Beate Klarsfeld and personal testimony given by Holocaust survivor Haim Roet.
Roet was born in 1932 in Amsterdam and grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He described his life in Nazi-occupied Holland as difficult, particularly as a child, “I was forbidden from playing in playgrounds, visiting parks, riding a bicycle, using public transportation and even going to a public school.” In 1942, Roet’s family was taken to a ghetto in Amsterdam, and he lived with his parents and three brothers in a small apartment. His two sisters and grandfather lived in another, and were eventually deported in 1943. They were never seen again. Before they left, Roet’s sisters were able to warn their parents that the SS was coming. When the SS guards knocked on their door, Roet’s parents didn’t open it. Two SS guards arrived again the next day for the rest of the Roet family. Roet’s mother knew German and argued with the men until they gave up and left, “My mother’s courage is the one of reasons that I can stand here today.” There were 144,000 Jews in Holland before the Shoah; only 35,000 survived.
Roet continued to speak about how his Holocaust experience led him to think about different ways for people to remember and learn about the Shoah. In 1989, Roet and Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust museum and research center, created the memorial program “Unto Every Person There is a Name.” This program is commemorated every year around the world on Yom Hashoah and B’nai B’rith is the North American sponsor. “Unto Every Person There is a Name” honors victims of the Holocaust by reading their names out loud, stating when and where they were born and when they died. Roet also serves as the chairman of the Committee for the Recognition of Jews who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust. This committee works with B’nai B’rith World Center every year to hold a unique Shoah commemoration ceremony that recognizes courageous Jews who saved their fellow brethren.
Ambassador David Roet (Haim Roet’s son), deputy permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, helped convene the first meeting on combatting anti-Semitism at the U.N. General Assembly last year.
Sadly, the growth of anti-Semitism today is steadily increasing throughout the world, but especially in the Middle East. B’nai B’rith International commends United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director General Irina Bokova for condemning a Holocaust cartoon contest Iran plans to hold for the third time in June. Past entries deny that the Holocaust even occurred. Bokova sent a letter to officials in Tehran expressing her concerns about the contest. Bokova was set to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday in Paris. These near-daily occurrences of hate, as seen by the horrific terrorist attacks committed against Israel and against Jews all over the world, must be stopped. B'nai B'rith calls on governments to speak out forcefully against anti-Semitism, and to educate young people about the Shoah and its consequences.
B’nai B’rith commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day by urging everyone around the globe to listen to the stories of survivors, and read and learn about the Holocaust, so we can remember the victims and survivors, and say never again.