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Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein ahead of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, 27 January 2017, Geneva

2017 theme: Holocaust Remembrance – Educating for a Better Future

"This painful day of remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust forces us to contemplate the horrors to which bigotry, racism and discrimination ultimately lead.

The sadistic brutality of the atrocities inflicted by the Nazi regime on Jews, Roma, Slavs, disabled people, political dissidents, homosexuals and others was nourished by layer upon layer of propaganda, falsifications and incitement to hatred. They were denigrated and smeared; one after another, their rights were refused, and finally, even their humanity was denied.

'It happened, therefore it can happen again,' wrote Primo Levi, who endured and survived the concentration camp at Auschwitz Birkenau. As we honour the victims of the Holocaust, we must also acknowledge the need to prevent the recurrence of anti-Semitism and all forms of racial and religious hatred and discrimination today.

It is essential to uphold independent rule of law institutions and a free press, which can hold leaders to account and establish a truthful record of the facts. It is crucial to maintain respect for human rights, especially in respect of the right to life and wellbeing of all people regardless of their origin or ethnicity. Above all, education must be at the core of all efforts to combat anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of discrimination. Although an important part of that work must be centred on schools and other academic fora, education in this sense must extend far more broadly, so that we can undo the stereotypes which generate so much injustice and prejudice throughout society.

In honouring the victims of the Holocaust, we must recognise that only if we regard each other as fully equal in dignity and rights will we be able to come together to overcome the many challenges facing humanity.

ENDS

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