International Holocaust Remembrance Day was commemorated by the European Jewish Congress, bringing together representatives of the European Union at the highest level and world Jewish leaders, at the European Parliament in Brussels, January 25th 2011.
In a clear show of unity, notable speakers honored the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and voiced their concern with the menacing and growing anti- Semitism permeating European society.
With deeply moving personal accounts of survivors, present at the ceremony, European Jewish Congress President, Dr. Mosher Kantor, was defiant in the need to confront growing anti-Semitism in Europe. “The Jewish people are a barometer for European tolerance. Democratic countries cannot afford to be tolerant of intolerance. Europe should have “zero tolerance” for anti-Semitism.”
President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, evoked his continuous fight to ensure that the lessons learnt from the Holocaust are never to be forgotten. As the former Prime Minister of Poland, he iterated, “We want to remember, we must, and we always will remember.” Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, looked back at history and evoked that today one must stand up to anti-Semitism and not remain passive towards a mounting anti-Israel stance.
Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, also expressed the realities confronting Jewish people today, highlighting that anti-Semitism had taken the form of attacks and boycotts towards Israel, “Any attack on Israel is an attack on Jews”.
With the likes of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commissioners Kristalina Georgieva, Antonio Tajani Maroš Šefčovič and John Dalli as well as a large number of Members of the European Parliament and Ambassadors present, the ceremony was made all the more poignant as 6 candles were lit in honour of the 6 million Jewish victims, the Roma community, the members of the Resistance Movement such as Jan Karski and the Righteous among the Nations.
Tel Aviv’s Chief Rabbi and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Israel Meir Lau, himself a survivor of Buchenwald camp, clearly stated “Never again !” As the audience fought back their tears, Rabbi Lau spoke of the massacre of his entire extended family and his conviction that Europe must always remember to ensure that its citizens never experience what he and the Jewish people lived through.
In addition to the eloquent and poignant speeches, guests were shown a unique exhibition from Yad Vashem Museum titled “Architecture of Murder-the Auschwitz-Birkenau Blueprints”. The ceremony concluded with a stirring performance by world-renown concert players of the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra, commemorating the life of Alma Rosé, a famous Viennese musician who lost her life at Auschwitz-Birkenau.