Days of Tolerance in Europe, November 9-16, 2008
Speech by the President of European Jewish Congress and Russian Jewish Congress Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the Memorial Service on the occasion of the 70 anniversary of Kristallnacht
We are expecting rabbi Lau to come in a few minutes that’s why I will start just now.
Dear rabbi Guigui,
Dear rabbi Arthur Schneier,
Dear rabbi Marс Schneier,
Our distinguished and excellent hazzan Muller - we are very much touched by your words and by your music.
But I am not a rabbi, and with your permission I will speak today about numbers, numbers which are very actual today. I want to start with saying “Shana Tova”. This week is a very special one for all of us. Because we are starting this week the Week of Tolerance in Europe, of tolerance and reconciliation.
But before we start to speak about this basic and actual thing in Europe with your permission I will speak a little bit about yesterday and today. By this event of commemorating the 70 th anniversary of die Kristallnacht we are completing the first 5-year cycle of commemorative events we started 5 years ago in Krakow commemorating 60 th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz. We commemorated the liberation of the most terrible place in the world which symbolized the open challenge to the mankind, the six death camps of Poland where 3 million Jews were killed practically openly in front of the face of the mankind.
Then we commemorated the 65th anniversary of mass murdering in Babi Yar – so-called hidden Holocaust: five thousand babi yars is a hidden holocaust because another 3 million Jews almost without names and identity perished in the Eastern Europe and die Kristallnacht was the beginning of this systematic destroying of Jewish people in Europe.
Die Kristallnacht symbolized the so-called economical Holocaust because for the first time in history Jews were forced to pay a contribution for the crime against them. It was one billion Deutsche marks. If we try to understand the value of this figure we can say that today this is an equivalent of more than 50 billion US dollars which was completely enough to finance Adolf Hitler’s ambitions and to start World War II.
But before starting the war Adolf Hitler, being a very careful politician checked two times the tolerance of Europe and the tolerance of the world. The first test was die Kristallnacht and after it he was completely sure that German people will not protect Jews – their neighbors and their friends of yesterday.
And then it was another test – the test which was not so widely-known as die Kristallnacht, this test was called vessel St. Louis which was used to sent to nowhere about 1,000 Jewish refugees from Germany. No country for the first two months accepted these passengers. Only after two months four countries including Belgium - and we are very grateful to this country and to the Government of this country - accepted half of them and another half in the late summer of 1939 came to Hamburg for death.
After this Hitler was completely convinced: nobody in the world will protect Jews. What is the price all of us, first of all Europe, paid for this lesson? We know it very well: 6 million Jews, 10 million Germans and 44 million non-Jews and non-Germans. Observers, as Arthur Schneier and Marс Schneier, our dear rabbanim, told us today, observers paid in numbers the highest price. They were good people – I completely agree with rabbanim, but do we have to repeat this practice?
What do we see today? Today, as we all know very well, the leader of a very problematic country, the country which is trying to have the nuclear weapon, being out of any international agreements, the country which is openly demanding the erasing of the State of Israel from the map in the presence of other members of the United Nations demands the result of their declarations and nobody leaves the room, nobody protests.
I can say that we see again the crime against humanity being silent when it is not allowed to be silent. Five thousand companies from Europe openly, despite the fact that their governments declare the mutual collaboration with sanctions, these five thousand companies collaborate with Iranian regime and the turnover of this collaboration is more than 100 billion dollars annually.
I can tell you more, Iran already has the first experimental nuclear bomb. Of course they don’t have the technology to make these bombs like sausages as they want but they have already the means of delivery for not less than 5,000 km. It means that not only Israel and Russia but also Europe is achievable. They have already the design of the warhead and I can report you because I am the President of Luxembourg forum, the body which has 60 best specialists in the preventing of nuclear catastrophe. And I can tell you on behalf of this body that we also know that the warhead of this experimental bomb was done in full collaboration with many important countries from Europe, through double technologies. We have to take this into consideration. And finally, they already have the first 20 kilograms of the enriched uranium which they bought at the black market in Pakistan.
It is a clear enough analogy to understand that we all live in a very dangerous world. But what do we have to do? What should be our future? We should be always criticizing what we don’t like or we should be proactive? That’s why speaking today about the future of Jewish people I want to put on the table - you know, the favorite expression of my father used to be: “If you want to have river fish put some gelt on the dish.” You know, my father repeated this expression very often and our fish on the table today should be a very strong program of uniting Europe – Jewish and non-Jewish street. And this program should be the program of tolerance and reconciliation, fighting against xenophobia, racism, ant-Semitism and all forms of extremism. Only in this case, if we have united goals we have the chance to have united Europe.
But I want to tell you something which seems to be very important. Tolerance should be or could be medicine or poison. There should be very sophisticated implementation of this program. We should have a lot of top-quality specialists to provide the ideology and technology of tolerance.
I can tell you one fact. For one country our committee preparing this program decided to make an experiment – just to list for one country the items we should respect to go up to the result. Just a list about political issues, about legislation, about international affairs, about culture, about migration, etc. You know how big is the book with only the list of directions we should follow, only the list – 400 pages.
It means that to create a specialist in tolerance and reconciliation it will take years and years of preparation. It’s not less complicated than to prepare a specialist in nuclear physics, how many years does it take us to prepare such a specialist – from kindergarten to PhD level – 20-25 years. Tolerance is not less important and not less complicated. That’s why tomorrow, with the help of the European Parliament and the President of the European Parliament, with the help of the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with the help of President Barroso, the President of the European Commission, with our dear colleagues from the Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, President Kwaśniewski and his colleagues, with the help of all other parliamentarians from both bodies we are trying to start something and we believe this something will never be finished.
You know, Chinese started to build their Chinese Wall and the construction lasted 2,000 years. And this wall was never used for the protection of China. This wall had only one goal – to unite the nation. I believe this program of tolerance and reconciliation we are starting this week in Europe will really unite Europe.
And to make this building of tolerance very solid we have to start with the foundation of this building. And the foundation has to have three main points because in the geometry the most solid body is triangle, and this triangle should be United Europe, the United States of America and Russia.
And the last thing. I want to remind myself the words of Shmona Esre: Hashem will grow the seeds of salvation if we, people, put the seeds of salvation in the fertilised soil. We have to do it together.