Monday, November 18, 2013

A Special Visitor to the Auschwitz Jewish Center: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations

Today, our colleagues in Poland at the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświęcim welcomed  Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General for a very special visit. The Secretary General visited to tour the Center’s Chevra Lomdei Mishnayot Synagogue, accompanied by Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, rabbi of Katowice and Upper Silesia, following a visit to the former camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau.

This is the first visit by a UN Secretary General to the Auschwitz Jewish Center, the only Jewish presence in the vicinity of Auschwitz; the Center’s facilities include Oświęcim’s only surviving synagogue.

Secretary General Ki-moon discussed the UN’s work for genocide prevention, tolerance, and peace while at the Center and wrote in the Center’s guest book, “I am honored to visit this synagogue and learn about Jewish life in Poland before the cataclysm of the Holocaust. I am especially impressed to see the staying power of Jewish tradition and the rebirth of Jewish life. Coming at the end of a deeply moving visit to the Nazi death camp, I leave Auschwitz saddened but also with the hope, determination to build this world of equality, human dignity and peace.”

Tomasz Kuncewicz, the Director of the Auschwitz Jewish Center says, “We are honored by the visit of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, which affirms our commitment to educating about European Jewish history and the Holocaust as a response to today's dangers of social exclusion, anti-Semitism, and other forms of xenophobia.  His determination to advance peace, development, and human rights serves as an example in today's world.”

Dr. David Marwell, President of the Auschwitz Jewish Center and Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, says, “We are so pleased that the Secretary General was able to visit our Center and witness evidence of the vibrant Jewish life that animated the town of Oświęcim before the war – a powerful counterpoint to what he had seen earlier in the day during his tour of the Nazi death camp just a few kilometers away. We hope that this powerful experience will help to inform his important work of pursuing peace in the world.”

Images: Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General at the Auschwitz Jewish Center. Photo by Dominik Smolarek. Image of guest book by Artur Szyndler.

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