The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday adopted Israeli-sponsored Resolution A/76/L30 aimed at fighting the increasing and worrisome trend of Holocaust denial.
The effort was led by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, and was approved on the day marking 80 years since the Wannsee Conference took place on January 20, 1942. The conference consisted of a meeting of senior Nazi officials in which they discussed the plans for implementing the Final Solution to exterminate the Jews living in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Erdan was accompanied by five Holocaust survivors as well as Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who is a child of survivors.
In his speech presenting the resolution, Erdan stated, “Holocaust denial has spread like a cancer. It has spread under our watch. It has spread because people have chosen to be irresponsible and to avoid accountability.”
Much praise was given for successfully passing the resolution.
Secretary-General of the UN Antonio Guterres reacted by stating, “We can never let down our guard in the face of increasing attempts to deny, distort or minimize the Holocaust.”
Israel President Isaac Herzog called it “a historic achievement,” and hailed the fact that the resolution “for the first time endorses practical steps to combat this evil based on the IHRA definition of Holocaust denial.”
Chairman of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization Yaakov Hagoel praised Erdan on the passing of the historic resolution, which gives expression to the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust whose voices cannot be heard.
Only the second time that an Israeli-led initiative has passed in the UN, this resolution addresses both the need to affirm the facts of the Holocaust and the urgency to combat increasing expressions of denial.
It states the need to reaffirm “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.”
The resolution also clarifies that Holocaust denial is not merely bound to the claim that it do not take place or that its numbers were much smaller, but also includes any attempt to assert that the Jewish people were not specifically targeted more than any other group.
“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.”
Moreover, the resolution goes further to define Holocaust denial in its various forms as an expression of antisemitism.
In addition, the medium through which Holocaust denial is both expressed and disseminated is also addressed. The resolution specifically notes that the distortion of facts regarding the Holocaust is heavily concentrated in the spheres of social media through the spreading of misinformation.
Finally, UN member states are urged to take active measures to combat the growing phenomenon of Holocaust denial.
They are encouraged to develop educational programs to ensure that future generations are equipped with the proper tools to understand the lessons of the Holocaust and to combat not only Holocaust-denial, but any form of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and negative stereotyping. Countries are also urged to mobilize civil society to cooperate in these efforts. The resolution not only addresses member states, but also social media companies to take action and to prevent misinformation and fervent attempts to distort the reality of the Holocaust through their platforms.
A total of 114 member states supported the historic resolution. In an unsurprising move, Iran opposed. The Islamic Republic has for years promoted varying forms of Holocaust distortion as a strategy. Former President of Iran Hassan Rouhani once stated in an interview with CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour that the dimensions of the Holocaust, “whatever it is,” must be left for the historians to decide. This is exactly one of the aspects of denial that this important resolution seeks to combat—the distortion of the scope of the atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people.
The fact that the “Resolution on Holocaust Denial” was co-sponsored by Germany should not be overlooked. It is of historic importance that 80 years after senior German officials were discussing how to annihilate the Jewish people, the German government today is leading the way, side-by-side with Israel, to combat antisemitism and the denial of one of the greatest atrocities in history.
It is a testament to how a country can take responsibility for its dark past and build a much brighter future. It also serves as a powerful example for others around the world showing how the perpetrator and the victim can lead the way hand-in-hand to ensure similar atrocities do not take place ever again.