Holocaust Memorial Day in New Delhi
31 January 2018
In the outbreak of war in 1939, Europe was torn by the deadliest conflict humanity has ever seen. In the heart of Europe, a second conflict was raging; not a war but an extermination that almost brought the annihilation of the Jewish people from the face of the earth. The eradication of the so-called “inferior people of Europe” became the largest genocide in human history, with a death count of 6 million.
Nearly 72 years ago, the United Nations was formed from the ashes of Auschwitz. To mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and to honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism, the United Nations designated January 27 as the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.
“We the Peoples”, so begins the charter of the United Nations. It is the people, who must practice tolerance to be able to live together in peace. Understanding what led to an event such as the Holocaust can provide clues and warning signs for intolerant behaviour.
For the 2018 annual commemoration ceremony in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, UNIC New Delhi designed a unique educational programme to sensitize the student community in Delhi.
In December itself, UNIC invited students from seven schools to an intensive briefing session on the holocaust organized in collaboration with the Embassy of Israel. The briefing ignited their curiosity on absorbing lessons from the past and interpreting relevant themes for our contemporary times.
UNIC New Delhi in collaboration with the Embassy of Israel and the Alliance Francaise de Delhi organized a two-day commemoration ceremony on 30 and 31 January 2018 at the UN Lawns and Alliance Francaise auditorium. In a unique first-ever gesture, the programme was supported by a large consortium of diplomatic missions in New Delhi, namely, the Embassies of Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The venue came alive with three sets of poster displays:
A set of 12 winning posters from an International Poster
Competition with the theme Keeping the Memory Alive was displayed at the UN Lawns. This was a joint project of Yad Vashem and the United Nations Holocaust Outreach Programme and endorsed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
The Butterfly Project developed by Holocaust Museum in Houston, outlining the impact of the Holocaust on children, was also displayed for the guests.
In keeping with the theme of the commemoration ceremony, the Embassy of Israel displayed an exhibit titled “Beyond Duty : An Exhibition on Diplomats Recognized as Righteous among the Nations” at the Alliance Francaise. The exhibit highlighted stories of 9 diplomats from different countries who ran rescue operations and went againt orders to save Jews during the Holocaust.
But the cynosure of all eyes were the well-researched experience centres created by students of seven schools presenting their understanding of the Holocaust through a wide variety of historical, thematic and art exhibitions.
The lawns of UN House were converted into a concentration camp like setting, where schools set up experience centres to lead guests through the various struggles of living under persecution. The feelng and process of “othering” was made palpable through the experiential set up.
In the evening of 30 January, over 200 guests from the diplomatic community, academia and media attended the ceremony to show solidarity to the cause. After experiencing the exhibition pavilions, the guests moved to the Alliance Francaise for the formal ceremony.
Representatives from all the collaborating embassies lit candles and observed a moment of silence in memory of those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
The ceremony began with a multifaith prayer by the Springdales School choir. This was followed by a welcome address by the Deputy Director of Alliance Francaise Pierre-Yves Meunier. In his opening address, UNIC Director Derk Segaar shared his thoughts on the importance of the values of cohesion and inclusion and also delivered the UN Secretary-General’s message. The Ambassador of Israel to India Daniel Carmon, delivered a very emotional keynote address to the audience. “By promoting awareness of the consequences of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice, we send a strong message to future generations about a past not to be repeated”, he iterated. The finale of the evening was a creative rendering of the Diary of a Young Girl with young Odissi dancer Chikirsha Mohanty portraying Anne Frank.
On Wednesday, 31 Janaury the UN House was populated by school students from 25 different schools. The students experienced the exhibits and moved to the Alliance Francaise for the screening of “Children of the Holocaust”, a documentary provided by the outreach division of the UN. The screening was followed by an interaction wherein diplomats from collaborating embassies answered questions from the student audience.
This year’s observance came to a close with the screening of a Polish documentary called “PILECKI” at the South Asian University on 5 February 2018.
The screening was organized in collaboration with the Polish Institute.