For the first time in history, the United Nations will mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday as part of a series of events initiated jointly with Israel.
Until this year, the U.N. only marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.
The planned U.N. events include a commemoration of the 1961 trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, who was convicted in an epic trial that helped shape Israel's national psyche. Eichmann was hanged after his trial in Jerusalem.
The gripping public testimony during the trial by more than 100 Jews who survived torture and deprivation captured world attention and vividly brought to life the horrors of the Holocaust. It also brought to light stories of Jewish bravery and resistance that shattered the myth of Jews meekly walking to their deaths. As a result, more survivors went public with their experiences, which greatly helped research and commemoration efforts.
Known as the "architect of the Holocaust" for his role in coordinating the Nazi genocide policy, Eichmann fled Germany after World War II and assumed the name Ricardo Klement in Argentina. He was hunted down and captured by Mossad agents in an operation that remains one of the most defining episodes in the country's turbulent history.
The Holocaust remembrance events will begin Thursday with the opening of a new Yad Vashem exhibit at U.N. headquarters in New York. Among those to deliver speeches during the event will be Tami Raveh, a lawyer and the daughter of Gideon Hausner, who was the chief prosecutor at the Eichmann trial, and Holocaust survivor and Minister Without Portfolio Yossi Peled (Likud).
Next week, a panel discussion will be held with Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Weisel, Peled, Gideon Hausner's son Amos, and Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt.
The U.N. will also launch a new educational program to fund training about the Holocaust for dozens of teachers and educators from around the world at Yad Vashem.
On the occasion of the event, Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor said, "The initiative is one of the instruments to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and make sure it never happens again."
As part of Holocaust Remembrance Day events in Israel, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro also released a message to the people of Israel.
"We remember the Shoah because we need to understand the crimes that humans are capable of," Shapiro said. "We need to reflect with pain and humility that the Shoah would not have been possible without the help of ordinary men and women who followed orders without question or simply stood by doing nothing. We need to understand because it is our obligation to ensure that this will never happen again."
Shapiro concluded by reaffirming the U.S.' commitment to Israel's security. "There are, as we have recently been reminded, people who seek to do harm to Israel and seek to harm Jews around the world. They seek to confront the values of democracy and freedom that we share between the United States, Israel, and other free people around the world. Today we stand our ground and resolutely declare, never again."