Edited By: Fern Sidman
The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, passed a historic resolution which “Rejects and condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part.”
January 20th marks the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference during which the Nazis approved the Final Solution. The request for the vote to be taken on this day was at the request of Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan.
Ambassador Erdan initiated the resolution against the dramatic rise in antisemitism and Holocaust denial in recent years, especially on social media. The adoption of the resolution is the result of in-depth work and intensive political negotiations held in recent months by Ambassador Erdan and the Israeli Mission to the UN in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, which worked with the Foreign Ministries of countries around the world to gain support for the resolution.
Ambassador Erdan invited five Holocaust survivors to attend the session in the General Assembly. The Ambassador hosted the survivors yesterday in his home, before the adoption of the resolution, to hear their stories and share with them the resolution and its details. Ambassador Erdan also invited Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla, the son of Holocaust survivors, to attend the session as a pioneering Jew among the leaders combatting the global pandemic.
As part of his remarks in the General Assembly, Ambassador Erdan told his personal story of his late grandfather Chaim, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust and immigrated to Israel after losing his first wife and seven of their children, who were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz.
In his remarks, Ambassador Erdan alluded to Iran, whose leaders continuously question the Holocaust, “Nations with seats in this hall openly deny the Holocaust, casting doubt on its occurrence and praising its perpetrators. Some have even run cartoon contests seeking the best cartoon mocking the Holocaust. In fact, those that most blatantly deny that Jews suffered a genocide are the ones now threatening Jews with another genocide!”
During his remarks, Ambassador Erdan said, “As the number of survivors dwindles, the younger generations are being indoctrinated on social media to doubt reality and trust deception. And while the internet turns into a vile breeding ground of deceit, social media platforms are shirking their responsibility. Despite their importance, these platforms do little, little to combat this sick phenomenon. And while this darkness grows, they place the blame elsewhere: “It’s not our responsibility, we are only service providers,” we hear from media executives. We recognize those words. We’ve heard them before. As you dodge responsibility, evil grows; when there’s no accountability, evil triumphs. Social media giants can no longer remain complacent to the hate spread on their platforms!”
“We have with us here today, guests of honor – Holocaust survivors. Toby, Sami, Hilda, Norbert and Rina have joined us for this historic occasion. Each one of them has an inspiring story of survival. An inspiring story of how, in the face of all odds, they are here with us today to share their experience…Dearest survivors, no one will erase our stories. No one will erase our past. No one will distort our history. I will never let this happen. We will never let this happen. This moment is our pledge to you that the atrocities of the Holocaust will never be forgotten and the facts will no longer be distorted. This institution was founded in the wake of the greatest crime ever perpetrated. It was founded upon the ethos of ‘Never Again,’ and its very essence was to prevent such atrocities from ever repeating themselves – against us, the Jews – or against anyone else…Israel, the Jewish state, is proud to have led and facilitated such a crucial resolution…”
“When Nazi mass murderer Adolf Eichmann, stood on trial in Israel, the Attorney General opened the prosecution with these moving words: ‘As I stand before you here, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger.’ I too stand here today with six million accusers. Yet while this resolution preserves the memory of the six million victims of the past, its goal is to also protect the victims of the future.”
Following the vote, Ambassador Erdan, Germany’s Ambassador to the United Nations Antje Leenderts, and the survivors invited to the UN by Ambassador Erdan met with the UN Secretary-General António Guterres. At the meeting, Ambassador Erdan presented the Secretary-General with the full resolution that was adopted and thanked him for his commitment to fight antisemitism.
Ambassador Erdan said, “This is a historic day and the resolution that was adopted today is of great importance. The fact that over 100 countries joined us and have determined that those who deny and distort the Holocaust must be fought is significant. It will give us real tools to act against these deniers and also demand responsibility from internet companies. I thank Secretary-General Guterres for his commitment to the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial and I thank the German Ambassador for joining our initiative and helping to advance it.”
In a statement sent to the media on Thursday, the World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO) said that they welcomed the passage of the UNGA resolution.
“The adoption of the resolution by the United Nations General Assembly on the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference is a powerful statement by the international community in combating Holocaust denial and distortion,” said Mark Weitzman, Chief Operating Office, World Jewish Restitution Organization (WJRO). He added: “As one of the lead authors of IHRA’s Working Definition of Holocaust Denial and Distortion, I applaud the commitment of the UN and its international membership to uphold the integrity of the historical record to ensure that we can seek justice for Holocaust survivors and Jewish communities whose property was brutally taken by the Nazis and their allies as an integral part of the genocide.”
Also weighing on the historic resolution was the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center. In a statement released on Thursday, the SWC said that they hailed the overwhelming adoption of Israel’s United Nations Resolution aimed at combating growing Holocaust denial and distortion around the world by governments and through social media.
“We hail the passage of this historic resolution, which sends a strong and unambiguous message condemning the growing scourge of Holocaust denial and distortion online and by certain governments like Iran – the only country to oppose the resolution,” said SWC Associate Dean and Global Social Action Director Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, Director of United Nations Relations and Strategic Partnership. “Denying and distorting the Holocaust is anti-Semitism.”
The resolution calls for new educational programs and provides for actions expected of signatory UN countries to address the growing scourge of Holocaust denial and distortion and will demand social media networks remove posts that fall under IHRA’s Holocaust denial definition.
“It is particularly fitting that the resolution passed by consensus on this day – as January 20 marks the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, organized by the Nazis to coordinate the implementation of Hitler’s Final Solution to murder all Jews, said Cooper and Greenberg. “This is a significant contribution to keeping the memories of Holocaust victims alive.”
They noted its passage marks only the second time since Israel’s establishment that a resolution submitted by Jerusalem has been adopted by the UN General Assembly.
Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, along with Dianne Lob, Chair, William Daroff, CEO, issued the following statement on the UN resolution.
“We are pleased by the United Nations General Assembly vote today to approve the historic resolution promoting Holocaust education and combating antisemitism at this critical time for Jews across the world.
“This vote marks only the second occasion since Israel’s establishment that the UN has adopted an Israeli initiated resolution – the first and only other instance was in 2005, to designate January 27th as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It also coincides with the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazi plan of systematic state-sponsored persecution and the eventual murder of six million European Jews was approved.
“This resolution, the first of its kind, offers a clear definition of Holocaust denial as adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and provides substantial resources through the UN Outreach Program on the Holocaust for countries and other relevant UN bodies to develop their own programs to promote Holocaust remembrance and combat antisemitism. The adoption of this definition, which was developed by IHRA’s transparent and democratic process, speaks to the importance of the IHRA’s prominence in fighting Holocaust denial and antisemitism. This resolution also takes the additional and necessary step of highlighting the responsibility of social media companies for their role in spreading misinformation about the Holocaust and the proliferation of dangerous conspiracy theories on those same platforms, which routinely unfairly blame Jews for problems around the world.
“The coronavirus pandemic has greatly exacerbated antisemitism. This remains a critical time for the American Jewish community, where this weekend a gunman struck fear into our hearts by attacking a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas during Shabbat services and holding 3 congregants and their rabbi hostage. We are thankful that the hostages escaped unharmed and also for the efforts of law enforcement and many organizations in our community that contributed to this outcome.
“Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City, Monsey, and now Colleyville, can never become the new normal for our community. It is vital to commit additional resources to better secure our facilities and fight the age-old scourge of antisemitism, especially when it appears in the form of online conspiracy theories, which can originate anywhere and spread like wildfire from keyboard to keyboard.
“This United Nations resolution affirms a commitment to oppose revisionist history, protect Jewish communities, to honor Holocaust survivors, and to preserve the legacy of the millions of lives lost to genocide. It sets a new international standard in the fight against antisemitism and Holocaust denial and reinforces the solemn pledge: Never Again.”
Full text of the Resolution on Holocaust Denial:
The General Assembly,
PP1 Reaffirming the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth therein, without distinction of any kind, such as, inter alia, race, religion or other status, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,
PP2 Bearing in mind that the founding principle of the Charter of the United Nations, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, is testimony to the indelible link between the United Nations and the unique tragedy of the Second World War,
PP3 Recalling also the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind,
PP4 Recalling that 2020 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, a war which brought untold sorrow to humankind, particularly in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Pacific and other parts of the world
PP5 Recalling the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was adopted in order to avoid repetition of genocides such as those committed by the Nazi regime,
PP6 Recalling article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which state that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,
PP7 Reaffirming the positive role that the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information can play in strengthening democracy and combating religious intolerance, and reaffirming further that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, and for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals, and that all measures taken must be in full compliance with international human rights law, in accordance with article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
PP8 Deeply concerned about the prevalence of impunity in some instances, and the lack of accountability in some cases, in addressing violence against persons on the basis of religion or belief in public and private spheres, and stressing the importance of making the necessary efforts to raise awareness to address the spread of hate speech against persons on the basis of religion or belief,
PP9 Reaffirming its resolution 60/7 of 1 November 2005, which underlines that remembrance of the Holocaust is a key component to the prevention of further acts of genocide, and Recalling that ignoring the historical facts of those terrible events increases the risk they will be repeated,
PP10 Reiterating the principles of international law recognized by the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal and Taking note with appreciation of their codification by the International Law Commission in 1950,
PP11 Reaffirming its resolution 61/255 of 26 January 2007 on Holocaust Denial,
PP12 Noting that 27 January has been designated by the United Nations as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust,
PP12bis Acknowledging the establishment by the Secretary-General of the Program of outreach on the subject of “Holocaust and the United Nations” as well as the work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, including on countering Holocaust distortion and denial,
PP13 Honoring the courage and dedication shown by the soldiers who liberated Nazi concentration and extermination camps, and those who fought against the Nazis, including in the resistance movements, as well as all those who resisted the Nazis, and who protected or sought to rescue those who were in danger,
PP14 Taking note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance contained in document A/HRC/26/50, A/75/329 and A/HRC/44/58 and the Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief contained in document A/74/358,
PP15 Recalling further that January 20, 2022 will mark 80 years since the “Wannsee Conference”, in which the implementation of the so-called ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ was discussed and coordinated by officials of Nazi Germany, resulting in the systematic establishment of the Nazi death camps, ultimately resulting in war crimes and crimes against humanity,
PP16 Reaffirming that the Holocaust, which resulted in the murder of nearly six million Jews, 1.5 million of whom were children, comprising one third of the Jewish people, in addition to the killing of millions of members of other nationalities, minorities and other targeted groups and individuals, will forever be a warning to all people of the dangers of hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice,
PP17 Noting that Holocaust denial refers to discourse and propaganda that deny the historical reality and the extent of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis and their accomplices during World War II, known as the Holocaust or Shoah,
PP18 Noting further that Holocaust denial refers specifically to any attempt to claim that the Holocaust did not take place, and may include publicly denying or calling into doubt the use of principal mechanisms of destruction (such as gas chambers, mass shooting, starvation, and torture) or the intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people,
PP19 Bearing in mind that Holocaust denial in its various forms is an expression of antisemitism,
PP20 Noting that distortion and/or denial of the Holocaust refers, inter alia, to:
- Intentional efforts to excuse or minimize the impact of the Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany;
- Gross minimization of the number of the victims of the Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources;
- Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide;
- Statements that cast the Holocaust as a positive historical event;
- Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups;
PP21 Emphasizing that States, regional organizations, national human rights institutions, civil society, non-governmental organizations, religious communities, and the media play a crucial role in promoting tolerance and understanding, as well as fighting racism, negative stereotypes, hate speech and the deliberate spread of disinformation that may incite to discrimination, hostility or violence, and in the universal promotion and protection of human rights,
PP22 Noting with concern the growing prevalence of Holocaust denial or distortion through the use of information and communication technologies,
PP23 Noting the global and open nature of the Internet and the significant role of social media in spreading information, and their potential to play a positive role in the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust, promoting historically accurate Holocaust education, and countering Holocaust denial and distortion,
PP24 Also expressing concern about the spread of disinformation and misinformation, particularly on social media platforms, which can be designed and implemented so as to mislead, to spread racism, intolerance, xenophobia, negative stereotyping and stigmatization, and to violate and abuse human rights,
PP25 Taking note of the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance contained in document A/64/295 emphasizing the importance of history classes in teaching the events and human suffering which arose out of the adoption of ideologies such as Nazism and Fascism, and also emphasizing that school classes and schoolbooks which are inclusive, representative, unbiased, aimed at reflecting with objectivity and accuracy the history of people belonging to minorities, and the relations with neighboring countries, well-trained teachers and human rights courses are essential to instill tolerance and respect,
- Rejects and condemns without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part;
- Urges all Member States to reject without any reservation any denial or distortion of the Holocaust as a historical event, in either full or in part, or any activities to this end.
- Commends those Member States which have actively engaged in preserving those sites that served as Nazi death camps, concentration camps, forced labour camps, killing sites and prisons during the Holocaust as well as similar places operated by Nazi-allied regimes, their accomplices, or auxiliaries;
- Urges Member States to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide, and in this context commends the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance;
- Urges Member States and social media companies to take active measures to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial or distortion by the means of information and communication technologies and facilitate reporting of such content
- Requests the United Nations Outreach Program on the Holocaust as well as all relevant United Nations Specialized Agencies to continue to develop and implement programs aimed at countering Holocaust denial and distortion, and to advance measures to mobilize civil society and invites all relevant stakeholders, including, inter alia, states, parliaments, private sector and academia to educate their societies truthfully about the facts of the Holocaust and the importance of its lessons as a countermeasure against Holocaust denial and distortion, in order to prevent future acts of genocide.