Speech by the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz on International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Brussels, January 22, 2013
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Vice-President of the European Commission,
Mr Kantor, thank you very much for your introduction. Thank you very much for the cooperation between the European Jewish Congress and the European Parliament. Thank you very much for mentioning the decision of the European Parliament to transform the ceremony we are just attending into a binding ceremony for the European Parliament. Every year, annually, to remember together - with you and other organisations, together with the Members of the European Parliament, together with the Commission, together with the Council of the European Union, together with the Holocaust-survivors, who are the most important guests today of the European Parliament -, to instore such a Remembrance Day for the Holocaust in the European Parliament as a duty of our constitution.
And therefore I will start, President Kantor, with an element of your speech: No! It is not 29! It is 2013! Why is it not 29? You described absolutely justified the risks - the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. There is a free elected Member of a Member State of the European Parliament asking for registering Jews. This is a shame in Europe! Yes, Jews are living in fear in Europe. Yes, there are threats. But, ladies and gentlemen - why are we not 29? Because there is a European Parliament. Because there are common European Institutions. Because a consequence was taken after the Second World War - after its deepest point of civilisation represented by Auschwitz.
One consequence was taken that countries and nations across their borders, and not only physical borders - across cultural borders, across their linguistic borders, across their very heterogeneous pasts, and the very heterogeneous experience of the past -, that they, across borders, create common institutions as a frame to cooperate on the basis of mutual trust and let us be honest - because it is necessary to say it - as a frame of mutual control. To avoid that one member is passing away uncontrolled in a dangerous direction. And the place where the debate about this heterogeneous interest on one hand and the common solutions, the mutual trust and the mutual control to respect human rights and democratic standards - the place where it happens is here. And therefore the European Parliament decided to make the day - the Holocaust Remembrance Day - a binding moment for the European Parliament. Because we are existing as a consequence, as a result of the first half of the 20th century.
We are historically here as an answer to the first half of the 20th century. Because the experiences of the Europeans, the experience of the Holocaust showed to which men, to which point people are prepared to go. The evil is existing every day, every moment. And therefore we have to be visible and prudent every day and every moment: Mutual respect, respect for individual rights, respect for the right of everybody of a decent treatment, to be respected as an individual - from wherever he is coming from which political tendencies he is, or from which religions he is. Basic element must always be respect to the individual. Experience of Europe in the first half of the 20th century was this total ignorance, the total absence of respect.
At the beginning of our ceremony you saw the photograph: This very famous photograph of this small boy and this Nazi-soldier behind him. Those who know a little bit of German history know that the soldier behind him with his gun was in the 50's discovered and brought to jail and then sentenced and executed by a communist dictatorship - it was the German Democratic Republic who sentenced him to death. A system, sentenced, perhaps well justified, the murder. But those who were the judges were themselves dictators. This is the history of our continent. And therefore the fall of the Iron Wall, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall should not be forgotten. Because a part of our European fellow citizens - and I am very grateful that Minister Bartoszewski is here - a lot of our citizens suffered another dictatorship, another dictatorship in Europe, until democracy, dignity, freedom and respect became the basis for all European countries and nations. There is still one - there is a brutal dictatorship: Belarus. In Belarus and I am here to remember that not all countries of the European Union, not all countries of Europe are free. We have still to fight for democracy, for freedom, for dignity. And that the last dictatorships in Europe must disappear, must be one of our commitments. Why? So long dictatorships are existing in the world, so long as political systems, existing not respecting individual democratic rights and this absence of the guarantee of individual rights is always the beginning of dictatorship and beginning of dictatorships opens always the door for those who argue: "We are better. We are stronger. And therefore we have the right to kill at the end the other."
Ladies and Gentlemen,
And especially those who are with us today, who survived the Holocaust,
Your presence here reminds us, is an appeal to us, not to abandon from the idea that this Remembrance Day is not an exclusive 'one-day' event. It is a permanent duty - every day - to be prepared to fight for freedom, to fight for our democracy, to fight for dignity, to fight for respect, and to be courageous. Courageous as Raoul Wallenberg was. To be courageous is very difficult. We are not all heroes. And no one has the right to condemn those who are not courageous. But those who are strong, and especially those who have a public responsibility - ministers, members of a parliament, mayors, representatives of public institutions, and even of economic institutions, CEO's of big enterprises like directors of movies, novel writers or painters, whoever is in public life representing our society - must have the courage in our times to stand up wherever and whenever a racist, an anti-Semite, raises his voice.
There are in this parliament people considering, Auschwitz, as an unimportant detail of history. This man is a member of the European Parliament. I would prefer to see him outside of the European Parliament. But ladies and gentlemen, he is a free elected Member of this Parliament. But the overwhelming majority of members of this Parliament - Moshe, and therefore we are not 29 - would stand up and in case he repeats his humiliation, his indecent word, would stand up and say: "Leave! You have not the right to stay here." Therefore I am more optimistic. Not that there are more heroes, but perhaps a little bit more courageous people than in 29. And to encourage all of us - everyday - to fight for our European Union - respect and dignity - therefore, we decided to instore the Holocaust's Remembrance Day here as a binding day for the Parliament.
Thank you very much