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Embassies in Korea commemorate Holocaust victims

Feb. 7, 2023 - 15:20 By Sanjay Kumar
German Ambassador to Korea (far left), Israeli Ambassador to Korea Akiva Tor (center right) and US Ambassador to Korea Philip S. Goldberg (far right) attend the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust at the Goethe Institut Seoul in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Monday. (Israeli Embassy in Seoul)

The German, Israeli and Italian embassies in Korea paid tribute Monday to victims of the Holocaust during World War II.

To commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration and extermination camps 78 years ago in 1945, the German and Israeli embassies co-hosted the International Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony in Memory of the victims of the Holocaust at the Goethe Institut Seoul in Yongsan-gu.

Not only every German government but also every German citizen has the moral duty to do everything in their power to prevent a repetition of history -- be it in Germany or anywhere else, the ambassador said.

“We have to think about the Holocaust not in terms of numbers and facts, but in every single individual fate, in every human being,” he added.

"This is our responsibility to the victims, the Jews, the Sinti and Roma, the politically persecuted, the homosexuals, the sick and disabled."

Reiffenstuel said that people must keep alive the memory of the Holocaust as well as the developments that led to it because it began with prejudice and ideology, which lent support to systemic injustice, discrimination and marginalization. It ended with genocide.

He called on everyone to counter hate speech, antisemitism, Holocaust distortion and denial as well as demagogy.

Delivering remarks at the ceremony, Israeli Ambassador Akiva Tor expressed his feelings during his first posting in the Netherlands.

“You feel like you are at the scene of a crime,” he reminded.

“Other than Rotterdam, (Dutch) cities were not destroyed, and you feel like the arrests, the transports to Westerbork and then to Auschwitz could have happened on a day just like this one -- the same trees, the same sidewalk, the same homes, the same spring morning,” he said.

“This is the feeling of immediacy felt by Koreans when they cross the Hangang Bridge or happen to be near other sites of tremendous sacrifice and suffering during the Korean War,” Tor imagined.

He remembered his childhood dreams about the Holocaust, feeling hunted and on the run.

“Then when I became a parent, I imagined waiting in line for something terrible, gathering my young children, unable to abandon them and flee. Nowadays, having lived a life that has been quite secure, I wonder: What would it be like to be tested?” he said.

A poster of "Diaries from the Holocaust" screened in Korea. (Italian Embassy in Seoul)

Meanwhile, the Italian Embassy hosted a screening of a documentary titled "Diaries from the Holocaust," directed by Massimo Vincenzi, at Emu Cinema in Jongno-gu, Seoul.

The documentary reconstructs Nazi persecution as seen through the eyes of several adolescents, who left some fundamental testimonies in their diaries.

Delivering remarks, Italian Ambassador Federico Failla stressed the need to remember and realize the fundamental role of the survivors' testimonies, which allow us to learn about the tragedy they experienced.

"Korea, despite the geographical distance from these tragic events, has performed many praiseworthy efforts in this field," said Failla.

In 2021, Korea was the first country on the Asian continent to adopt the operational definition of antisemitism promoted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Failla recalled.

The screening was followed by a live exhibition by cellist Kim Yeong-hwan and guitarist Cheon Sang-hyeok.

Kim and Sang played music from the films "Life is Beautiful" by Nicola Piovani and "Schindler’s List" by John Williams.