Speech by Commissioner Avramopoulos at the International Holocaust Remembrance day event, Brussels 24/1/2017

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24 Jan 2018
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos
  • Αβραμόπουλος Avramopoulos

Dear survivors, 

dear colleagues, 

ladies and gentlemen, 

I would like to thank for being today here HRVP Mogherini, VP Ansip, Commissioner Andriukaitis and Commissioner Bulc. 

It is my honour to open today’s event marking  the International Holocaust Remembrance day.

It is a day that  we must mark and honour not just every year. 

It is a memory and responsibility that  we must carry and uphold every day in everything we do.

I would like to warmly thank the organising partners for their very interesting exhibition launched today. 

Allow me to begin by expressing my gratitude for their presence today to the three survivors: 

Mr. Jehoshua Shochot, Mrs. Elżbieta Ficowska, and Mrs. Elisabeth Drillich. 

They will bear witness to us of a not so distant past.

They are here to offer us a lesson that we must never forget.

A lesson that refers to the darkest pages of European history, and it is an essential part of our collective identity.

It is a lesson about what humankind is capable of doing when the thin veneer of civilization is removed, the fundamental value of respect for human dignity is breached, racism, hate and intolerance prevail.  

I was confronted with the unspeakable atrocities that took place at the concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz when I visited it a year ago. 

Allow me to say that this visit has left a permanent impression on me. We need to remember the horrors of the Holocaust in order not to repeat them. 

Because, as George Santayana said: "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

At the same time, not all ghosts of the past have remained in the past.

Our common European endeavour was founded on these hard lessons and created from the ashes of the aftermath of what happened during the Second World War.

And yet, today, after more than 60 years of peace, democracy and prosperity, our fundamental values and principles are again at risk.  

The rhetoric of ostracising and stigmatising individuals and communities because of their faith, origins, or skin colour is reappearing again, today, not only in Europe but globally.  

It is, therefore, more than essential to recall where this could lead to.

We are not allowed to be passive spectators. Remembering about these dark pages is the most appropriate way to build our resilience to any temptation by the populists and xenophobes.

One of my main responsibilities as European Commissioner is for historical memory and remembrance. 

Through the Europe for Citizens programme, we provide support to initiatives dedicated to keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and bringing that memory to young Europeans, so that we never forget.

I can ensure you that the support for the remembrance activities will continue.

Because our duty, our responsibility must continue.

In parallel, we need to ensure that there are enough guarantees that such a tragedy will not happen again. 

We must ensure that our societies remain open, tolerant, democratic and pluralistic. 

Citizens across Europe and around the world must stand together in defence of our international and human values of respect, equality, solidarity and 

rule of law.

Without engagement, the values we are calling upon so often become an empty shell. 

Only through acts of individual and collective courage and resistance these values are defended and lived. 

This is also why we must make sure that the internet, our worldwide platform of freedom, of information, of connectivity, is not used to share and expand hate and anti-Semitism.

2018 is a year dedicated to European cultural heritage, where we should also pay special attention to the Jewish heritage in Europe.

There is no single homogenous European culture. Our culture is diverse and collective. And we must defend all parts of our culture. It is in our diversity that we are united.

E pluribus unum.

Ladies and Gentleman,

On this day, we remember and we honour those who cannot be here with us today to bear witness. 

The Holocaust shattered the entire moral fibre of human society and had a devastating effect on the lives of individuals, families and communities.

We remember the six million men, women and children whose lives were cut short when the hatred and the misguided politics of racial superiority engulfed our continent.

Looking at the past, we find inspiration in the people who are here today to bear the witness and in all those who decided against all odds to provide help and rescue risking their own life.

Out of those unspeakable atrocities, and out of total destruction, a new social and moral tissue was born in Europe.

This is our legacy.

Today, we make a pledge as we do every day and every year, that we shall never forget. 

That we shall continue to fight to create fair, decent and compassionate societies, which are not indifferent in the face of human misery.

We make a pledge to continue deconstructing the seeds of anti-Semitic narratives and attitudes. 

We make a pledge to uphold humanity and solidarity, to live up to our aspirations of an open Europe.

We make a pledge of building a Europe of values, a Europe of responsible citizens and a Europe which learned from its past to not repeat it again.

Thank you.

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