Lech Kaczynski’s Address

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I associate myself with all the organizers and participants of the Third International Holocaust Forum Let My People Live! The Forum which has gathered today in Krakow many distinguished guests marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the German annihilation camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. This is an enormously important anniversary.

On 27th January 1945, a painful and slow process began which continues to this day: the process where humankind started to learn the whole appalling truth about KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. The truth about the genocide perpetrated on its territory by the German Nazis on Jews, about crimes perpetrated on Poles, Roma people, Russians and representatives of many other nations. This camp became a symbol of contempt of man, of his rights and dignity, of the rejection of the Decalogue and other norms underpinning our civilization. The lesson of Auschwitz is a lesson which speaks about the fall of humankind and reminds us about what people can be capable of when their conscience is replaced by ideology and heartless obedience. Pope John Paul II noted years ago: Auschwitz is a place that cannot be merely visited. When visiting it, one must think in apprehension where the borders of hatred lie.

More than half a century divides us from that January day. Nevertheless, humankind still fails to fully fathom the enormity of that suffering that befell the Jewish people at the hands of the German Nazis. The Holocaust has permanently changed the moral awareness of the world. It made all nations realize that ignoring racism and anti-Semitism allows those diseases of human mind to breed and produce irreparable damage. The fact of the Shoah has proven how important it is to swiftly and resolutely oppose the evil in all its manifestations: starting from those petty ones, seemingly insignificant ones, and ending with the ones that poison the life of whole social groups and nations. The motto of the Krakow Forum: Let My People Live! is a lasting appeal directed to the conscience of the world so as to never see such a crime happen again: nowhere and against no person.

We cannot change the course of history and revoke the enormity of evil which was perpetrated in KL Auschwitz-Birkenau. But we can and we should do our utmost to spare the future an equal drama. The key to success in our operations must be education founded on historical truth and the memory about it. We also need to be able to look into the future. It is only those two dimensions added together: the memory and the future that make up the core of a complete responsible education.

Educational tasks faced by аll institutions responsible for memory and reconciliation: starting from schools and institutions of higher education, through state governments, museums, foundations, cannot be limited to the history of the Shoah alone. In order to fully realize its size and its tragic nature, it is also necessary to bear in mind that together with millions of victims, the German occupier also annihilated their history, culture, customs, and the whole Jewish world which for ages had been in existence in Europe, and on Polish soil in particular. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews which is underway in Warsaw and whose construction I endorsed as a Mayor of Warsaw and continue to support now as well, is an institution whose task will be to spread the knowledge about long and rich annals of Jewish citizens of the Republic of Poland.

Even now the museum undertakes many important initiatives, and among them there is also the project that I gave my patronage to: Polish Righteous – Recalling Forgotten History.

In order to make history the teacher of life, history must be alive in the conscience and minds of succeeding generations. It must teach these generations respect for the sanctity of human life – this is a worthy and deserving task which was provided for in the declaration adopted in 2006 during the Holocaust Forum in Kiev. Young people are particularly exposed to the evil, the actions and slogans which continue to persist in our world. This is why all education initiatives targeting new generations of our successors are so significant, the initiatives which enable them to learn each other better, to overcome barriers and stereotypes. As President of the Republic of Poland I seek to support and give my patronage to activities of that kind. Also my predecessor in office Aleksander Kwasniewski has substantial attainments in this field.

I wish to thank wholeheartedly all persons committed to the organization of the Krakow Forum for their personal and meaningful involvement in the initiatives promoting historical knowledge about the drama of the Holocaust. I also wish to thank all of them who uphold Jewish culture and tradition, who recall centuries-old creative presence of Jews on Polish soil. A philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas once stated: I am responsible for the other man and that is why he is for me someone unique and irreplaceable. The Holocaust could only happen in the world which was void of the truth, responsibility and respect for the other man. It is my profound belief that thanks to such meetings as today’s Forum, thanks to the people of good will who attend it, we have made headway in our pursuit of a world where thoughts and actions shall be founded on the conviction about inalienable dignity and value of life of every human being.