UN Set to Approve January 27 as World Holocaust Day

NEW YORK - A proposal to set January 27 as a world Holocaust Day is expected to be approved at the end of a special General Assembly session that began at the United Nations yesterday.

January 27, 1945 is the day the former Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was liberated.

The vote is expected to be delayed until today, to allow time for speeches by representatives from 22 countries. The foreign ministers of Britain, Russia and France are among the speakers, but U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was compelled to return to Washington yesterday instead of speaking at the General Assembly session.

If passed, the resolution would be the first of its kind, spurring diplomats in New York to call the move "historic." Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman, told the General Assembly that the major contribution the United Nations and its members can make to memorializing the Holocaust victims is an assurance that such an event will never take place again.

Since the draft resolution was distributed for the first time, in August, 91 UN member nations have added their names, including eight Muslim countries and several countries in Africa and South America. More than 100 countries are believed to have promised their support for the resolution.

In addition to setting a world Holocaust Day, the resolution calls on member nations to develop educational programs to teach the next generations the lessons of the Holocaust, in an effort to prevent acts of genocide in the future. The resolution also includes a clause opposing any steps to deny the Holocaust as a historical event, in whole or in part. The resolution also expresses appreciation for all countries that acted to preserve and maintain sites that existed during the Holocaust, such as death camps, concentration camps and forced labor camps.

The resolution asks UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a special public relations plan within the next six months, which will work to advance the memorialization of the Holocaust so as to prevent genocide from taking place.

The effort to declare an international Holocaust Day is consistent with the UN commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II and the liberation of the concentration camps, which coincides with the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, say those who drafted the resolution. In January the United Nations held a special session dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.