Yesterday, the Committee on Cultural Affairs passed a pre-considered resolution commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps on January 27th, 2015. Prior to the hearing, lead sponsor Council Member Mark Levine was joined by his colleagues, Holocaust survivors, and Jewish advocacy organizations on City Hall Steps to discuss the importance of remembering this anniversary.
The scale of nazi atrocities carried out at Auschwitz and the surrounding network of 45 sub-camps strains belief. From early 1942 until late 1944, 1.3 million human beings were sent to these camps. 1.1 million of them–mostly Jews–were murdered there.
There are approximately 73,000 Holocaust survivors living in and around New York City, many of whom were liberated from Auschwitz-Birkenau. As many as half of those survivors live at or below the poverty level. This anniversary is a reminder that the city must do more to support these fellow New Yorkers who have given so much to us and now deserve to live in dignity.
Anti-Semitism is again on the rise in Europe and beyond, with Jews murdered in Paris and Brussels and Mumbai and Jerusalem. Many speakers pressed that we should ignore such barbarous acts at our peril, and that this anniversary reminds us of the urgency of confronting genocide everywhere it threatens humanity, no matter the race and creed of the victims.
The full text of the resolution is available here. It will be voted on by the full City Council in tomorrow’s stated meeting.
“The lessons of the Holocaust have to be learned and relearned in every generation. This is more true than ever today when the specter of anti-semitism has remerged so fiercely in Europe,” said Council Member Mark Levine, Chair of the Jewish Caucus.
“Hate and bigotry have no place in our society, and yet have reared their ugly heads in the pages of history far too often. In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we honor the memories of millions of Jews and other persecuted minorities who were so senselessly slain, and we honor the strength and fortitude of the survivors who endured in the face of such terrible pain and loss. Let us never forget the dangers of prejudice, and let us work to build up a city and a society that embraces diversity and tolerance,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
“We must never forget the unspeakable atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “I want to thank Council Member Mark Levine for introducing this meaningful resolution. By remembering the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps on January 27th we are forever honoring the many lives that were lost and carrying on the legacies of those who survived this tragedy.”
“As a member of the Jewish Caucus, I am proud to support this resolution in honor of the 1.1 million Jewish people along with countless members of other minorities, who were murdered in Auschwitz. The liberation of this concentration camp marks a moment in history when humanity was restored. In light of the recent terror attacks in Europe, this commemoration serves as a reminder of our commitment to protecting the rights of all New Yorkers, regardless of their race, religion or political views,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen.
“Through this City resolution, the Council remembers the lives of the 6 million who were horrifically murdered during one of the darkest periods in our world’s history. This important commemoration also celebrates the strength of thousands of Holocaust survivors still living in our City and will help ensure their stories are never be forgotten. I want to thank Council Member Levine and my colleagues for their leadership and solidarity with the Jewish people,” said Council Member Liz Crowley.
“I am proud be a co-sponsor of the Reso commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. As the son of a Holocaust survivor, I can attest through first hand stories, which my father told me about, the risks he took to survive the torturous conditions of Auschwitz. My father repeatedly jeopardized his life in order to sneak potato skins under his shirt, from the kitchen, so he could feed malnourished children and the elderly. It is because of his selfless acts of courage that he survived the camps and was able to go on to raise a family, thus, teaching his sons the importance of caring for the less fortunate.” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch.
“In my lifetime, I was fortunate in having the opportunity to visit Auschwitz and the home of Anne Frank, and hearing first hand accounts from Holocaust survivors. Also, as a son of Dominican Immigrants, the story of how the Dominican government opened up its borders to those refugees fleeing the Holocaust and provided them with land and other resources, inspired me as an elected official to join Mark Levine and my colleagues in sponsoring this resolution. The Holocaust is one of the most atrocious events to have taken place in modern history, and currently there are over 60,000 survivors living in NYC, while 30,000 are still living in poverty in result of it. It is important for us to stand together as a City, no matter your ethnicity to recognize and pay respect to all of those who have lost their lives and continue to suffer due to the Holocaust,” stated Council Member Rafael Espinal.
“Let us never forget the horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau and the dangers of extremism, intolerance and antisemitism. While we commemorate the liberation of these camps and celebrate the lives of Holocaust victims, we will also renew our commitment to stand up to evil and hatred in any form it takes,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick.
“Today’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps is an important tribute to the memory of millions of innocent men, women and children who were murdered simply because of their Jewish faith. The words “never again” have no meaning if we do not remember the atrocities. As a city, we must stand united against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate. It is vital that we educate our future generations of this horrendous chapter in modern history,” said Council Member David Greenfield.
“The memory of liberated Jews and other persecuted minorities will live on forever and today the City Council honors them with this resolution. Thank you to Council Member Levine for introducing this resolution and for commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps,” said Council Member Steve Levin.
“The devastating loss of life and cruelty that took place at Auschwitz-Birkenau are among the worst in human history. I’m humbled to co-sponsor a resolution that honors the bravery, perseverance, and sacrifice made by those who endured so much. Let this anniversary remind us that the work to stomp out anti-Semitism and intolerance in our communities cannot be forgotten or delayed,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).
“I am honored to join my City Council colleagues to commemorate this solemn remembrance of our history,” said Council Member Mark S. Weprin.
“As we join with NYC Council members to honor Holocaust survivors and commemorate the liberation from the concentration camps,” said Elihu Kover, VP Nazi Victim Services of Selfhelp Community Services, the largest provider of services for survivors in North America. “There is perhaps no more opportune time to take action to aid NYC’s more than 60,000 survivors, with a staggering 30,000 who live at or near the poverty level even today in the NYC metropolitan area.”
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center applauds Council Member Levine and Speaker Mark-Viverito, the Jewish Caucus and the entire City Council for taking the time to reflect and commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The horrors that happened 70 years ago may feel other worldly. But history has shown that the world has a very short term memory and anti-Semitism and the persecution of innocent people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds is now at an all-time high across the globe. The City Council’s resolution ensures that we never forget what happened just 70 years ago,” said Dina Muskin Goldberg, Development Associate of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is a time to honor those who perished and those who survived – and a time to renew our commitment to fighting against injustice at home and abroad. This year marks 70 years since the United States and our Allies put an end to the Holocaust but tens of thousands of survivors still face everyday alone, afraid and hungry. In New York City, 30,000 Holocaust survivors are living at or below the national poverty line. As a City we have a responsibility to protect those most vulnerable among us and these survivors – after their incarceration, after their displacement, after experiencing unspeakable horror – surely meet that definition. We need leaders from both the public and private sectors to be the voice for these voiceless citizens so that they can spend their remaining days with the comfort and dignity they deserve. Thank you to Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Mark Levine for their invaluable leadership and for putting this resolution forward, which means so much to so many,” said Meredith Rose Burak, Chair of Public Partnerships, The Survivor Initiative.
Michael S Miller, Executive Vice President and CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York said: “We commend the New York City Council for its official recognition of the 70th annual of the liberation of Auschwitz. We believe that remembering the Holocaust can play a significant role in educating future generations about the price we pay when hate and bigotry are ignored. The Holocaust reminds us of the absolute imperative to denounce all forms of racism and intolerance.”
“Met Council is proud to stand with Speaker Mark-Viverito and the entire City Council in commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau,” said Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty CEO and Executive Director, David M. Frankel. “Having provided comprehensive social services to more than 2,000 Holocaust survivors last year alone, Met Council and our dedicated Holocaust social services staff recognize that those who endured the Holocaust still need our help. We thank the City Council for supporting our programs, which aid, sustain, and empower Holocaust survivors and other New Yorkers in need.