Source: European Jewish Press
European Parliament President Martin Schulz on Tuesday stressed the importance of an annual binding commemoration of the Shoah by the EU institution.
Speaking in Brussels at the first ever official ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Schulz said: “The Shoah is a tragedy for all the Jewish communities of Europe and for Europe itself. It is therefore appropriate that this initiative to annually commemorate the victims of the Shoah in the European Parliament is a joint initiative of the elected representatives of Europe’s citizens gathered in this institution with the official representatives of Europe’s Jewish communities gathered under the representative umbrella of the European Jewish Congress.”
“My presence here this evening together with EJC President. Moshe Kantor, stands testimony to our collective commitment as European citizens to work together so that never again will such barbarism and intolerance befall our continent,” he added.
“Europe is existing every day, every moment, therefore we must be vigilant and prudent every day and every moment. Mutual respect, Respect for individual rights, respect for the right of everybody, the decent treatment to be respected as an individual, whatever country he comes from, or his political tendencies or to which religion he belongs, the basic element must always be respedct for the individual. The experience of Europe in the first half of the 20th century was this total ignorance, total absence of respect.”
The theme of the commemoration was a tribute to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising fighters, whose struggle took place 70 years ago, and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor spoke about the shame in the political rise of fascist and neo-Nazi parties in Europe.
“From the late 1920’s all the way through to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, most of Europe chose to excuse the fact that populations facing economic hardship could be bought off by scapegoating minorities, by turning inwards to the hatred of the other,” Kantor told the audience of MEPs, ambassadors and members of the Jewish community. “This all sounds too familiar.”
“Today, amid economic turbulence on this continent, national parliaments contain increasing numbers of racists and anti-Semites. And it is to the immense shame of all of us that this European Parliament also contains such people,” Kantor added.
Alan Shatter, Irish Minister of Justice, Equality and Defence, whose country chairs the rotating EU presidency, also related to the new wave of racism and anti-Semitism in Europe.
“We must not ignore the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe, the violence against individuals simply because they are Jewish, and the corrosive rise in racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric by amalign minority of politicians in some EU Member States,” he said.
“It is a moral imperative that we unequivocally repudiate the reprehensible rhetoric of those who seek to contaminate our political discourse andf attempt to inflame dangerous prejudice”.
He continued, “The Shoah did not begin in the death camps – it began with words of hate. Those words of hate became weapons of mass murder because good people closed their doors and window shutters and remained silent.”
The event was also addressed by Maros Sefcovic, Vice-President of the European Commission, Samuel Pisar, Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy of UNESCO for Holocaust and genocide education and Prof Władysław Bartoszewski, Polish Secretary of State and the Plenipotentiary of the Prime Minister for International Dialogue.
A room in the European Parliament was named after Raoul Wallenberg, in the prssence of members of Wallenberg’s family and Holocaust survivors.
“Rarely has a European made such a major, such manifest and such difficult contributions to the service of mankind. The room in the European Parliament reminds us of Wallenberg’s magnificient courage for a just cause when facing the risk of losing one’s own life,” said Martin Schulz.