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UN, leaders mark camps' liberation

Efforts against genocide urged

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN General Assembly commemorated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps with a special session yesterday, and survivor Elie Wiesel and world leaders confronted a question that has long haunted the United Nations: whether the world body has the will to stop genocide.

The commemoration also was meant to eradicate the notion that the UN General Assembly is anti-Semitic, an accusation frequently made by Israel.

But there were signs of division and clear evidence that much of the Arab world was not participating. The General Assembly auditorium was less than half full even for the start of the commemoration, while just one Middle East country -- Jordan -- was scheduled to deliver a speech commemorating the liberation of the camps.

Speakers at the General Assembly remembered the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust and how the United Nations itself was founded in response to the tragedy to prevent such acts from happening again.

''The Jewish witness that I am speaks of my people's suffering as a warning," Wiesel said. ''He sounds the alarm to prevent these tragedies from being done to others. And yes, I am convinced if the world had listened to those of us who tried to speak we may have prevented Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia, and naturally Rwanda."

The event was one of several United Nations commemorations yesterday beginning a week of events worldwide marking the anniversary of the liberation of the camps.

In Vienna, Patrick Villemur, France's representative to United Nations organizations based in the Austrian capital, reminded about 200 officials and employees gathered in the rotunda of the UN complex overlooking the Danube River that the United Nations was founded ''as the world was awakening to the full horror of the camps."

The United States had requested the commemorative session at the General Assembly on Jan. 24, three days before a similar event in the former Auschwitz death camp in Poland to mark its liberation by Soviet troops Jan. 27, 1945.

Between 1 million and 1.5 million prisoners -- most of them Jews -- perished in gas chambers or died of starvation and disease at Auschwitz. Overall, 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

In Berlin yesterday, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reminded Germans on the eve of Auschwitz commemorations that ordinary people empowered the Nazis and urged them to be vigilant against a continued far-right threat.

Schroeder insisted that the Holocaust could not be attributed solely to the ''demon Hitler."

Material from Reuters was included in this report.

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