The event was organised by the EJC in partnership with the President of the European Parliament who has been hosting this ceremony for the past 5 years.
This year the ceremony was dedicated to artists who perished in the Shoah and emphasized the role of art in preserving the memory of the Holocaust. The event also featured the exceptional participation of world renowned Maestro Vladimir Spivakov and his string orchestra.
Distinguished guests attended the ceremony including EU leaders, ambassadors, commissioners, members of the European Parliament as well as Holocaust survivors.
European Jewish Congress (EJC) President Dr. Moshe Kantor called on European leaders to show their commitment to fighting hatred against Jews by adopting the definition of Antisemitism agreed to in May by the Berlin-based International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in a speech he gave to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the European Parliament. The UK has already officially adopted the definition
“I urge all European governments to follow the British Government’s lead and adopt this definition,” Dr. Kantor said. “The reason this is so essential is because for the first time it tells anti-Semites, your words and actions are illegal.”
“Currently, in most of Europe, we have an absurd situation whereby Antisemitism, unlike any other form of racism, is defined by the perpetrator and not the victim, as it should be. While some are trying to dampen or criticize the definition, let me make it clear that the only people who should be worried about the legalizing of this definition are anti-Semites.”
Dr. Kantor said that this could be an important first step in making Jews feel safer in Europe.
“The best way for European leaders to commemorate the Holocaust, is not just by talking about the past but by re-committing themselves to a safe future, especially for the Jewish community,” Dr. Kantor said. “I say to the leaders in this room and around Europe. We have been loyal to you. We fought in your armies, we helped create new technologies to make our lives better and contributed to culture and society way above our numbers should dictate. We ask you to show us the same loyalty and determination. “
“We call on you to join with us, European leaders, to demonstrate to future generations of Jews – in word and deed – that there is a future for Jews on this continent. Seventy-two years ago, the Nazis failed in ridding Europe of its most ancient minority, the Jewish People. The greatest commemoration of the Holocaust is not giving them a posthumous victory.”
Dr. Kantor spoke alongside Antonio Tajani, the newly elected European Parliament President and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“As we remember, we pledge to never forget all victims and never allow such destruction to occur again. The pledge ‘never again’ must not be a passive gesture,” President Tajani said, at his first official event in his new position. “Today, we see some of the signs that led to Auschwitz, the hatred of the stranger, the scape-goating of the Jew, the jackboots and the swastika-like symbols in the streets and the voices of intolerance in some of our parliaments.”
“We must not be silent in the face of these threats to our European society. We know where this hatred, allowed to fester and develop, may lead. As the number of survivors and witnesses declines, we need to find ways to pass on their experiences and memories to our younger generations. It is our ultimate responsibilities to those who are no more, to those who survived, but most of all to us all.”
Also speaking at the event was Beate Klarsfeld, famed Nazi hunter and UNESCO Honorary Ambassador and Special Envoy for Education about the Holocaust and the Prevention of Genocide.
At the event, the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation bestowed the Medal of Tolerance on Andrei Konchalovsky, film director, producer and screenwriter, the director of “Paradise” for which he is a winner of the Silver Lion for Best Director and considered for a nomination at the 89th Academy Awards 2017. Konchalovsky has been working in theatre and cinema for over fifty years with great integrity and professionalism.