NEW YORK, 24 JANUARY 2005
STATEMENT BY HE Mr. JOÃO SALGUEIRO, AMBASSADOR EXTRAORDINARY AND PLENIPOTENTIARY AND PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF PORTUGAL TO THE UNITED NATIONS, ON BEHALF OF THE WESTERN EUROPEAN AND OTHER STATES GROUP (WEOG), TO THE SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS COMMEMORATING THE 60th ANNIVERSARY OF THE LIBERATION OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS
WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS are gathered here in a Special Session to Commemorate the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps, close to the end of the Second World War in Europe.
The Nazi camps represent one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in the history of mankind. They were part of Hitler’s and the Nazi’s deliberate policy to annihilate Jews and exterminate political adversaries and others considered socially and racially undesirable.
Concentration camps, forced labour camps, extermination or death camps, transit camps, prisoner of war camps all were at the service of this Holocaust.
Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and so many others all over occupied Europe were a gallery of horrors unfolding in our mind as we think about the events before the liberation of the camps.
6 million Jews - roughly half of Europe’s Jewish population, one third of the world’s Jewish population – perished. About 5 million other victims perished at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Today, our hearts and minds pay a solemn tribute to the memory of all victims of the Nazi camps. We express our profound solidarity with the survivors. We express our sorrow for all those whom this outbreak of cruelty wounded in body and soul. And we especially honour the Allied forces which fought to end the war over Nazism, to liberate the camps and to give new hope to the world.
Also deserving our praises are the individuals who followed their conscience in helping to save the persecuted: rescuers like Raoul Wallenberg, Oscar Schindler, André Trocme, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, some of whom remain unidentified and unrecognised.
This is also a moment of meditation. The moment for the humanity to raise the questions: how was it possible for this unprecedented tragedy to unfold? why did things come to the point where man himself and whole peoples were brought so low? how can we preserve alive the memory of the Holocaust in order to prevent something similar to ever happen in the future?
In this sense, the Second World War marked a turning point for humanity. The ashes of the war led to the birth of the United Nations and to the hope of an International Society built on tolerance, solidarity and common security. “From the cruel contempt for people’s dignity and rights there was also born the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
Portugal, on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG), wishes to call on this Assembly to once again renew its foundational vows, in particular to reaffirm our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of all men and women and of all nations large and small.
Let us never stop learning from the past and try each day, at State and at individual level, to foster tolerance and respect for our fellow human beings. Let this United Nations Organisation chart wisely its course into the future.