UN Holocaust commemoration on 29 January to remember victims with disabilities
The plight of persons with disabilities during the Nazi era will be remembered at the second annual observance of the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, to be held at the United Nations on Monday, 29 January.
The memorial event will focus on the disabled community as one of the many victim groups of the Nazi regime. It will highlight the importance of education in ending discrimination against all minorities, particularly in light of the adoption by the UN General Assembly on 13 December 2006 of the landmark Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Thomas Schindlmayr, of the UN Secretariat of the Convention, will speak at the ceremony, which will be webcast live at http://www.un.org/webcast/.
An estimated 275,000 persons with disabilities were killed by the Nazis. A widespread and compulsory programme to sterilize persons with disabilities began in 1933, right after the Nazis came to power. Then, under a secret plan called the 'T4 Programme', persons with disabilities were killed by lethal injection or poison gas. The T4 Programme saw a string of six death camps -- called 'euthanasia centres' -- set up across Germany and Austria. These centres contained gassing installations designed to look like shower stalls. The killings continued until the end of the war.
The basic killing procedures and technology were then transferred to the 'final solution', and personnel from the T4 killing programme moved to other killing duties after 1942. Millions perished in the Holocaust -- Jews, persons with disabilities, religious and political opponents, Poles, Roma, Jehovah' Witnesses, homosexuals and others.
One of the foremost opponents to Hitler, who tried to assassinate him in 1944, was a person with disabilities -- count Claus von Stauffenberg, who had lost his right hand, three fingers of his left hand and his right eye in combat.
The keynote speaker at the event, which will take place in the General Assembly hall, is Simone Veil, President of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah and a Holocaust survivor.
The General Assembly designated 27 January -- the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp -- as the day of the observance.