When the U.N. General Assembly decided, a little more than seven years ago, to accept the Israeli proposal to set an International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was a historic day in the U.N. The very essence of such a memorial day is a global rejection of any attempt to deny the Holocaust. The decision to mark Jan. 27, the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, is a source of encouragement. It is also an incentive to the various countries in which the concentration camp sites are located to preserve them, and to condemn xenophobia and violence against any group based on its ethnicity or religion.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated in parliaments around the world, with the participation of heads of state, ministers and parliament members, as well as in official demonstrations and school assemblies. It is important to remember the victims of the Holocaust and to impart this memory to future generations as well. Young people must be part of the chain of memory from generation to generation. This day is designed to ensure that wherever a person is on the globe, they will remember what was and learn that it should not be repeated.
As foreign minister for Israel and initiator of the U.N. resolution, I could not help but get very excited about it. I felt then, as I do still now, that it was merely the closing of a circle and an important achievement. I participated in a special session of the General Assembly on the subject of the Holocaust and inaugurated, with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, a first-of-its-kind exhibition on the walls of the U.N. dedicated to Auschwitz. It was clear that this step was an important statement, which relates not only to the Jewish people, but certainly also has an impact on the future for all people.
The connection between past, present and future seems almost self-evident. Hatred of Jews in general, and Israel in particular, still raises its ugly head. The backdrop has shifted over the years, the language has altered its form and the circumstances have changed, but there is still considerable common ground with the hostility and rhetoric of that time. We have seen it in the past, and we know the impact can be devastating and far-reaching.
Anti-Semitism was and still remains a blight that must be eradicated. It seems that much of the free world has already realized that it is created from hatred, pure evil and malice, and that it is no longer the problem of the Jewish people alone or Israel by itself. Each citizen of the western world is, in fact, an enemy of the same spirit of destructive hatred; so it is only appropriate that each of the nations of the free world recognize, in advance, the dangers of this hostility and potential serious future implications.
Not only on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but all year, nations must commit to remembering the difficult and inconceivable events that took place during World War II. Only Israel, which holds on to the memory of the Holocaust, of the babies, children, women, men and elderly people who were tortured, massacred and burned alive, can set the required example to influence, for the better, those on the path of hatred and incitement in the 21st century.
Our obligation as Jews is to teach the memory of the Holocaust to the young generation; it is an integral part of our being and our national genetic code. The dimming memory of the Holocaust and the natural deaths of many aging survivors requires us to commemorate the Holocaust even more for the generations that did not experienced the horrors in the flesh. Only as we continue to remember do we know that we are doing everything we can to ensure that those who endured the inferno, and their descendents, will live in a better world.
Silvan Shalom is a vice prime minister, regional cooperation minister and minister for the development of the Negev and Galilee.