Commemorating the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, the World Jewish Congress partnered with the Jewish Community of Geneva and the Swiss Friends of Yad Vashem at the Hekhal Haness Synagogue in Geneva to pay homage to the victims of the pogrom that took the lives of hundreds of Jews and foreshadowed the destruction of European Jewry.
The event, which was attended by over 35 diplomats representing some 20 nations, was held under the auspices of the Permanent Mission to the UN and the General Consulate of Greece, on the occasion of the Greek Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, was cosponsored by the Permanent Missions of Germany, Israel, and Switzerland, as well as the General Consulate of Brazil and Casa Stefan Zweig.
Opening remarks highlighting the importance of remembrance and stressing the duty of not being passive in the face of hatred and bigotry were delivered by Ambassador Panayotis Stournaras of Greece, Ambassador Katharina Stasch of Germany, and Meirav Eilon Shahar of Israel, as well as the President of the Jewish Community of Geneva Ms. Roseline Cisier. As German Ambassador Stasch said, “In commemorating we must do more than mourn. Humanity has a shared responsibility to prevent genocide in the future. Every one of us needs to stand up to discrimination, intolerance and antisemitism.”
The ceremony was dedicated to the memory of all those courageous individuals who tried to sound the alarm about the growing Nazi threat in the 1930s, including Štefan Lux, a Czechoslovakian journalist who committed suicide at the Assembly Hall of the League of Nations in Geneva on 3 July 1936, in order to alert the world leaders of the rising dangers of antisemitism. This event, which took place just over one month before the founding assembly of the World Jewish Congress in the same room, was, regrettably, soon forgotten. The depiction of this scene is included in the opening titles of Costa Gavras’ film “Amen.”
Before concluding the commemorative event, the Consul General of Brazil in Geneva, Ambassador Susan Kleebank, inaugurated the exposition “Legacy of Exile (1933-1945): The Contribution of Second World War Refugees to Brazil,” which was done in partnership with Casa Stefan Zweig. This exhibition of great educational value includes stories of some 50 refugees, most of them Jewish, who fled to Brazil during the war and excelled in the arts, business, politics or science.