Seoul holds ceremony for International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Never again, vowed over a hundred participants at a ceremony hosted by the embassies of Israel and Germany and the Goethe Institut Korea as they paid tribute to the victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27.
“The destruction of one-third of the Jewish people by a modern scientific state, an enlightened society which was liberal, open, Christian, advanced in every way before the advent of Nazism, a place in which Jewish contribution to culture was vast, intimate and undeniable — this is a deep riddle which no thinking world citizen in 2022 can afford not to ponder,” said Akiva Tor, ambassador of Israel to Korea, at the ceremony at the Goethe Institut Korea in central Seoul held for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Joined by the mayor of Seoul, members of the diplomatic community, academia and representatives of Israeli, German and Korean youths, the ceremony was held in a hybrid online-offline format due to coronavirus concerns.
A reel of video messages recorded by dozens of ambassadors in Seoul, each lighting a candle in remembrance of Holocaust victims, started the ceremony.
“Honoring the lives of victims can take on various shapes — one of them could be for everyone to look up the name and testimony of perhaps just one person, light up a candle for them and treat their personal story with dignity as we remember each of the victims today,” said Michael Reiffenstuel, ambassador of Germany to Korea.
Memory, dignity and justice were three words selected to represent the theme of this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, held on Jan. 27 annually since the United Nations designated the day in 2005.
Seventy-seven years ago on Jan. 27, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and extermination camp, located in then-occupied Poland. But by that time, 6 million Jewish people and many others had already perished.
Vowing to “never again” allow another Holocaust, Reiffenstuel commended Korea’s efforts to remember and honor the victims.
“I commend South Korea as they endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism last year,” said Ambassador Reiffenstuel. “As the first country in Asia to do so, their efforts are exemplary and hopefully inspire other countries in the region and beyond to follow.”
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon at the ceremony conveyed his gratitude to the Holocaust survivors and the victims’ relatives, who he said are “going great lengths to let the world know of the truths and suffering of the Holocaust,” and his respect for Germany and its people for “not turning a blind-eye to this tragic history [and] making a conscious effort to remember it, apologize and work toward healing.”
The poem “Each of us has a name,” by Israeli poet Zelda Schneurson Mishkowsky, more commonly known as Zelda, was read out loud by Alon Saroya, an Israeli middle school student in Seoul.
Mayor Oh and members of the diplomatic community, Foreign Ministry and the youths’ representatives lit candles before the audience to remember the victims.
Melanie Bono, director of the cultural programs at the Goethe Institut Korea, addressed rising antisemitism in parts of the world and the need to act now.
“Against the global context of rising antisemitism and increasing levels of disinformation and hate speech, remembrance of the Shoah and victims of Nazi persecution, Holocaust education remains urgent,” Bono said. “The historical background and profound meaning of the first article of the basic law, the Grundgesetz, of the Federal Republic of Germany must always be before our eyes. I quote, ‘Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.’”
BY ESTHER CHUNG [firstname.lastname@example.org]