Statement by H.E. Ambassador Baki İlkin, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN, Twenty Eight Special Session of the General Assembly on the Commemoration of the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps

Baki İlkin 24.01.2005
Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathered here today for a solemn occasion to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. It is indeed an event of historical significance. Turkey therefore welcomes the convening of a special session of the General Assembly.

Holocaust, which is beyond doubt one of the worst forms of crimes against humanity, claimed the lives of six million Jews. The overwhelming majority of them died in concentration camps. A great number of people from other countries, as well as Turks have also lost their lives in the factories of death. Today we pay tribute to all who perished in these camps. The closure of the camps brought a sigh of relief not only to the liberated Jews and others, but also to their liberators and all freedom loving Nations. It was a pity that the liberation came too late and for too few. Nevertheless, the liberation put an end, once and for all, to the fear, suffering, torture and death of innocent people being persecuted and murdered solely because of their ethnic background.

It is under such tragic circumstances that the United Nations rose out of the ashes of World War II. The Special Session today also enables us to recommit ourselves one more time to the fundamental principles and noble goals upon which the United Nations is founded. Only through mutual understanding, respect and tolerance, is it that we can build a better world and a brighter future for all, and thus prevent the repetition of such a tragedy and catastrophe.

Mr. President,

Turkey, throughout its history has been a shelter, safe haven and a second home for the oppressed and the persecuted. It has become host to numerous ethnic groups, cultures and religions. That is how it has developed a deep rooted culture of tolerance, conciliation and co-existence. Turkey has always adopted a firm stance against all forms of racism, intolerance and xenophobia, including anti-Semitism, in all international fora. Turkey will continue to work for the eradication of all these scourges.

Yet, on this occasion I will confine myself to saying a few words about the Jews who have found a second home in our country.

During the Inquisition more than 500 years ago, the Sephardic Jews took refuge and found a safe haven in our country. Ever since that time they have been living and flourishing in İstanbul and contributing to Turkey's cultural diversity.

Likewise, during the darkest days of the twentieth century, the pre-war and Second World War era, Turkey once again offered a safe haven and welcomed Jews, trying to escape Nazi persecution. A good number of them took part in the re-organization and modernization process of Turkish universities, in city planning, in the construction sector and in medical research etc. During the Second World War, the Turkish diplomats serving in occupied Europe, helped hundreds of Jews escape oppression, by issuing them Turkish passports and identification cards. I am very much touched by the Secretary General's reference to Mr. Selahattin Ülkümen, one of those Turkish diplomats.

Mr.President,

Drawing the necessary lessons from the Holocaust, we should make every effort to combat all types of prejudice and hatred in all its forms and manifestations, be it anti-Semitism, Christianaphobia or Islamaphobia. Our meeting today must help us to refocus our energies in that direction.

Thank you.