President of the Republic of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga has met recently with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), the President of the World Holocaust Forum foundation Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor. During the meeting the importance to teach the Holocaust lessons in order to prevent such tragedies in the future was stressed.
The World Holocaust Forum foundation was established this year following the First International Holocaust Forum “Let My People Live!” held in Krakow (Poland) in commemoration of the 60 th anniversary of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation. Heads of states and governments from 25 countries of the world participated in the Forum in Krakow.
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin stated the main idea of that important meeting in his speech, having reminded that German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had been once ashamed of the past of his country. “And there are many of us who should feel ashamed of the present. Unfortunately these spores, spores of these diseases are not eradicated and we do not work effectively enough. Even in our country that did most of all to fight Nazism, to vanquish Nazism, to save the Jewish people – even in Russia do we see today, unfortunately, manifestations that are cause for shame. It is our duty to declare with one voice to present and future generations that no one can and has the right to remain indifferent to anti-Semitism, nationalism, xenophobia and racial or religious intolerance”, – the President said.
This was the panhuman message, which served the basis for the activity of the World Holocaust Forum foundation. According to Mr.Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor, oblivion of others’ grief, indifference to others’ sufferings is one of inevitable peculiarities of the human nature, to fight against which is a hopeless utopia. “But another task is quite real and absolutely constructive – to remind and diligently explain to people, including on the Holocaust example, what such widely spread and almost “instinctive” phenomena, as nationalism, common xenophobia and a wish to assert “natural advantages” of their own tribe before other tribes can turn out to be personally for them and their relatives”, – the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the EJC is convinced . It is not surprising that at the meeting with Mr. Kantor Mrs. Vaira Vike-Freiberga whole-heartedly supported the creation of such Foundation.
Despite the World Holocaust Forum foundation having been established not long ago, its activity had already first results. Thus, today “The European Education Program for Teachers on the Holocaust and its Lessons” prepared by joint efforts of the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority Yad Vashem and the EJC successfully exists. “Education is a special process, – Mr. Kantor explains the programme objective. – Its success depends on interrelations between a teacher and a student, that is why the project focuses on education of teachers, as well as, to a no lesser degree, on conversations with the youth using their native language”. This explains a grandiose scale of the project, as the very word Holocaust originates from an ancient Greek word Holocaustosis and means “burnt offering” and “sacrificial offering”, in Israel and some other countries it sounds like the Shoah and means “the catastrophe of the European Jewry”. Although different, it would seem, names of the tragedy mean the same dreadful events of 1933-1945.
Thereat during the meeting with the Head of the Latvian Republic Mr.Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor emphasized once more that the priority function of the World Holocaust Forum foundation remains organization and holding events, similar to those held in Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau. As these grief summits allow reminding people of the concentration camp horrors generated by racial intolerance. The humankind remembers again of an enormous number of deaths, many millions of lives, which passed away in crematorium furnaces and gas chambers. Such forums embody the Memory itself – the only thing, which today’s generation can pay by to the dead, and the thing that can prevent such a horror again.
At the same time the World Holocaust Forums are not only a meeting of world leaders and commemoration of the tragedy victims. Study and spread by the Foundation of the Holocaust knowledge, as well as a means to draw attention of the world community to today’s manifestations of anti-Semitism and xenophobia around the world should be added to it.
During the meeting with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the EJC President of the Latvian Republic learned of the course of preparatory works for the Second Forum of the World Holocaust Forum foundation, which will be held in autumn 2006 in Kiev. As the experience of the first international meeting showed, the humankind knows about the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of KL Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army. But only few people remember of the Ukrainian Babyn Yar where during only two days in September 1941 about 34,000 people were killed for “incorrect” nationality. Exactly in a year there will be the 65 th anniversary since these gloomy events.
Mrs. Vaira Vike-Freiberga estimated the international forums held by the EJC and the Foundation. “Latvia is determined to remember the crimes against humanity committed by the totalitarian regimes on the Latvian land during the XX century” – she said. According to the President of the Latvian Republic, this is difficult to imagine without a long-term support of the International Task Force on the Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research, the European Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations.
The Head of State expressed “deep concernment of Latvia for cooperation with the World Holocaust Forum foundation in the future”. And the activity of the Jewish community in the life of the European community and Latvia itself was honored separate positive comments of the President.
Mr. Viatcheslav (Moshe) Kantor, in his turn, apart from the conversation with the Head of State, held a number of meetings with heads of the local Jewish community. Plans of the historical and cultural legacy development in the near future were raised at these meetings, as well as organization by the Foundation of the World Holocaust Forums, which received a wide response and support there.
Taking into account that the whole year remains before the next meeting, it is possible to presume that the EJC will manage to engage to be active participants of the Forum representatives of not only the states, which have been loyal to the Jewish Diaspora from time immemorial, but also those who have not yet effectively resisted the rise of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
Parlamentskaya gazeta (The Parliamentary newspaper), №165 (1782)