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United Nations General Assembly Commemoration of Holocaust

The United Nations General Assembly on Monday held a special plenary session commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camps. The session was the first-ever official UN remembrance of the Holocaust, part of a week of remembrances around the world.

A moment of silence was observed by the United Nations General Assembly to remember the millions of people, including six million Jews, who perished in World War Two concentration camps in Poland and Germany.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said no compensation can ever be made to the victims of the Holocaust, but perhaps future tragedies can be prevented. "It is, above all, a day to remember not only the victims of past horrors whom the world abandoned, but also the potential victims of present and future ones. A day to look them in the eye and say, 'You, at least, we must not fail'," he said.

Several Holocaust survivors attended the special plenary session, including Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, who entered Auschwitz at the age of 15. His parents and younger sister died there before the camp was liberated.

Mr. Wiesel said, "We must reject indifference as an option. Indifference always helps the aggressor, never his victims. And what is memory if not a necessary and noble response to and against indifference?"

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom enlisted the assistance of several dozen nations to request the special session. His hope was that the special commemoration would heighten international awareness of the Holocaust as well as shed light on the continuing struggle against anti-Semitism.

"As the number of survivors shrink all the time, we are on the brink of that moment when this terrible event changes from memory to history. Let all of us gathered here pledge never to forget the victims, never to abandon the survivors and never to allow such an event, ever to be repeated," he said.

The special session was meant to eradicate the belief that the UN General Assembly is anti-Semitic, an accusation frequently made by Israel. During the daylong special session, only one Arab nation, Jordan, was scheduled to deliver a speech commemorating the anniversary.

Events are planned for later this week in Poland on the anniversary of the day allied soldiers liberated Auschwitz, January 27, 1945.