Poignant tales of compassion of Jews finding refuge in India in the midst of the horror of the Holocaust were recounted as the UN commemorated the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 commemorates the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the World War-II.
It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jews.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced concern over centuries-old hatred
India's Permanent Mission to the UN co-hosted with B'nai B'rith International a special event 'India: A Distant Haven during the Holocaust' yesterday as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres voiced concern over the centuries-old hatred being "not only still strong", but also "getting worse".
Commemoration an opportunity to recount moving tales of compassion: Akbaruddin
India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said the commemoration was an opportunity to recount the moving tales of compassion amid the tragedies of the Holocaust, and to promote the civilizational values that are key to preventing such crimes against humanity.
He told the gathering that there were numerous stories of solace offered in India to those escaping troubling times in Europe.
Akbaruddin recounted legendary story of the Nawanagar Maharaja
Akbaruddin recounted the legendary story of the Nawanagar Maharaja, who against all odds, took personal responsibility to provide home to around 1,000 Polish children. They travelled all the way to Gujarat in India to escape the ravages of the World War II in their homeland.
Stephen Tauber, a Holocaust survivor, shared his story
During the ensuing panel discussion, noted scholar, and archivist Kenneth Robbins shared how some of the Jewish faith found refuge in India amid the horror of the Holocaust.
Stephen Tauber, a Holocaust survivor whose family fled from Austria to India, also shared his stories.
"While the world was at war, India was engaged in its own struggle for freedom from colonial rule," Akbaruddin said.
'India, people of Jewish faith go back thousands of years'
"Yet, even during these difficult times, people of India welcomed visitors from overseas who were escaping uncertainties in their homelands," Akbaruddin noted.
He added that link between India and people of Jewish faith went back thousands of years when the first Jews landed on India's south-western coast nearly 2,000-years ago and over time have greatly contributed in fields of entrepreneurship, art, architecture and culture.
India had rarely witnessed anti-semitism till 26/11, points out Akbaruddin
Akbaruddin pointed out that India had rarely witnessed anti-semitism except during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks when Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists killed 174, including six persons at the Chabad House in Mumbai. Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention marks 70th anniversary this year.
'Examples of compassion and solidarity serve as beacons of hope'
"As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention this year, we watch with concern that globally the forces of anti-semitism, racial and religious intolerance and xenophobia are posing new challenges to global values," Akbaruddin said.
"Examples of compassion and solidarity serve as beacons of hope and inspiration in troubled times," the diplomat pointed out.
Family left for India aboard an Italian ship, Tauber recalls
"Such stories help in building across borders and generations, peaceful co-existence," Akbaruddin added.
During the panel discussion, Robbins spoke about minorities' contribution to Indian society, and India's history of religious tolerance.
He also outlined the movement of Jews to India during different periods of history.
Tauber recalled a more personal story of his own family that had left Vienna on an Italian ship.
B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin thanked Tauber for story
Tauber's family worked to maintain its Jewish traditions in a tiny community. In 1941, the family settled permanently in the United States.
"Ken is a font of knowledge about India, and particularly the intersections between Indians and Jews...Ken's work epitomizes the phrase 'labor of love', " B'nai B'rith International CEO Daniel Mariaschin said.
Mariaschin thanked Tauber for sharing his story.
'You, your family were fortunate to find rescue in India'
"You and your family were fortunate to find rescue in India and ultimately a new life here in the United States," Mariaschin said. President of B'nai B'rith International, oldest Jewish service organization in the world, Charles Kaufman emphasized UN's role in fighting hatred and violence.