Holocaust remembrance means fighting Holocaust denial

Manila, 24 January 2019 – The United Nations Information Centre Manila and the Embassy of Israel held a Holocaust remembrance commemorative event, entitled “The Undeniable Truth,” at the Emilio Aguinaldo College in Paco, Manila, Philippines.

The Holocaust is the systematic extermination of about six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II.

United Nations Philippines Resident Coordinator Ola Almgren said, “Among all the horrors that were inflicted on humankind in the course of World War II, none was committed with such chilling and evil calculation as the one inflicted on the Jewish People.”

“[Therefore denying the Holocaust] is not just unconscionable,” said Almgren. “It is an assault on our collective memory.”

He encouraged the youth audience numbering 500 to learn from the lessons of the Holocaust, act against discrimination and defend democratic values, at a time when the emergence of Neo-Nazism and hate groups fuels rising antisemitism and other forms of hatred in many places around the world.”

Ambassador Rafael Harpaz meanwhile recalled the Philippines’ act of generosity during World War II, when then President Manuel Quezon provided refuge to Jews that had fled persecution in Europe.

Harpaz said, “Eighty years ago, not far from where we are sitting now, stood a unique voice among the leaders of the world – President Manuel Quezon. This man took a brave leadership decision during the 1930s when he stood and opened the doors of the Philippines to Jews fleeing from Nazi Germany. This was also the time when most leaders of the world preferred to shut their eyes and doors to Jews who eventually perished in the Holocaust. President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon is a role model to the leadership of today. His action embodies the important lesson drawn from history – to take responsibility and action when needed simply because it is the right thing to do.”

President Quezon’s great grandson, Manuel L. Quezon III, led who led the panel of Filipino historians invited to the event, said that the reason that the Philippines chose to let in the Jewish refugees, along among many countries that refused them entry is that Filipinos understood what it meant to be persecuted by another country on the basis of race.

Given the Filipinos’ own struggle against colonialism by the Spaniards, they easily identified with the Jewish people being oppressed by Nazi Germany.

On the other hand, Dr. Augusto de Viana, chair of the Faculty of History of the University of Santo Tomas, said that revising history could be a good thing if it served to provide a more accurate account of past events. However, historical revisionism that is motivated by a self-interested agenda, like Holocaust denial, should be confronted and challenged.

The commemorative event also featured a piano concerto by renowned pianist Dr. Amit Weiner, who performed “Music in Times of Tragedy,” a collection of musical compositions of Jewish musicians who perished in the Holocaust.

Almgren said, at the end of his message, “Let us remember this and vow never to forget. Because no matter what people say, no matter how much time passes, no one can change this Undeniable Truth.”

Teresa Debuque, National Information Officer, of the United Nations Information Centre Manila, was the master of ceremonies.