Greetings to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
January 24, 2009
New York
Greetings to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon On behalf of the Holocaust survivors in the congregation this morning I extend a warm welcome to you, Secretary General and Mrs. Ban, and the diplomatic corps who have joined us in remembrance of the Holocaust. Your presence this morning is an act of remembrance and resolve to never again remain silent in the face of genocide.

I invoke the memory of Congressman Tom Lantos, my fellow Holocaust survivor from Budapest, our mutual friend. It was my sad task to inform you about the memorial service at the Capitol. At short notice you cancelled all your appointments and were the first to arrive early in the morning in Nancy Pelosi’s office. You showed care and compassion to the bereaved family. For years I have known you as a distinguished South Korean diplomat and dedicated public servant. In the words of the prophet Micah, “you walk humbly, love mercy and do justly”. Above all you are a mensch! – a man of decency and honor.

2009 will mark the 70th anniversary of World War II. The plans for World War II that claimed the lives of millions and made Europe a blood soaked continent were imbedded long before September 1, 1939 by Hitler and his Nazi cohorts and brought about the Holocaust of the Jewish people. In my birthplace, Vienna, on Kristallnacht 1938, I witnessed the burning of my Synagogue. What started with the burning of books and Torah scrolls led to the burning of human beings. The liberation of Auschwitz in January 27, 1945 came too late to save the millions of men, women and children who were gassed there and in other extermination camps (including my grandparents and other members of the family.)

As a survivor I learned to take the words of tyrants at face value. They mean what they say. While scarred for life remembering the horrors of the past, we can’t be paralyzed by it. We value life not death. From the ashes in the Valley of Dry Bones we have rebuilt our lives and witnessed the reemergence of Israel.

70 years later the world is still beset with strife and conflict, ethnic cleansing, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Many of our fellow human beings face the threat of genocide. Complacency and impotence in the face of genocide are a blemish on the world. There must be a clamor and outcry for a consensus policy by all nations of the world to prevent acts of genocide. Holocaust education can be a call to conscience and awaken us from our slumber of indifference.

History has taught us that every conflict comes to an end. It is our responsibility to hasten that day in a quest to save human lives and spare needless human suffering.

Let each one of us shoulder the responsibility of helping spread the canopy of peace and preserve our planet and civilization for the future of our children and children’s children.

Please join me in welcoming the Secretary General.
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