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NZ marks Holocaust remembrance day

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealanders will be the first in the world to mark United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day 2012 this Friday with a service at the Jewish Cemetery at Makara and an official parliamentary function.

"The Holocaust stands as a moral and legal marker for civilisation and a tragedy humankind cannot afford to forget," said Inge Woolf, director of the Wellington Holocaust Research and Education Centre.

"Observance takes us back to the planned murder of six million Jews by the Nazi German government during WWII and emphasises why world legal systems must be strengthened against the horror of genocide."

This year's New Zealand theme is "Justice and accountability after the Holocaust", Wellington lawyer Peter McKenzie QC will deliver the keynote address at the parliamentary function at which NZ National Commission for UNESCO chair Neil Walter will also speak.

Following the Nuremberg Trials of Nazi leaders in 1945-46 and the adoption of the United Nations Genocide Convention in 1948, the question of responsibility for crimes against humanity was made clear.

"We see this in action at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, against genocides in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, and in the ongoing trial in Cambodia where former New Zealand Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright is one of two international judges on the Trial Chamber of the Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal," said Mrs Woolf.

In a message to member states, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said the Holocaust had shaken the foundations of humanity forever.

"As the last survivors pass away, a struggle has begun to preserve traces of past Jewish life and the memory of the persecutions and massacres. On this day, UNESCO reaffirms its determination to combat all forms of Holocaust denial. Education is a key front in this struggle and also UNESCO's unique contribution, through our work for youth, training of teachers and curriculum design. This task, to which I am personally committed, lies at the heart of the resolution on Holocaust remembrance adopted by the Organization in 2007."

Members of the public are invited to join members of the Jewish community at the official New Zealand observance of UN Holocaust Remembrance Day this Friday afternoon.

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