Speech by First Vice President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness at the International Holocaust Commemoration Day in European Parliament. Brussels, Wednesday 24 January 2018
Speech by First Vice President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness at the International Holocaust Commemoration Day in European Parliament
Brussels, Wednesday 24 January 2018
Dear Members of Europe’s Jewish and Roma and communities
In particular, survivors of the Holocaust and their families,
Speaker of the Knesset Mr Edelstein,
Colleagues, Members of the European Parliament,
Honourable Members of the Knesset and of national parliaments,
Chief Rabbi Guigui, Rabbis, Reverends, Ambassadors
President of the European Jewish Congress Mr. Kantor,
Presidents of Jewish and Roma communities from across Europe,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani, it is an honour for me as First Vice President to welcome you here today in order to solemnly mark together International Holocaust Commemoration Day.
This is a day decreed by the United Nations in a resolution of the General Assembly in 2005 dedicated to holocaust remembrance.
The day chosen by the UN for these commemorations - that now take place around the world - is highly symbolic.
On 27 January 1945 the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp was liberated by allied forces.
In the final phase of World War II, one by one, these “hells on earth” were overrun by liberating armies and the true horror of the Nazi regime revealed its face.
The Holocaust is an unparalleled crime against humanity that was carefully planned and executed by the Nazis over years.
The Jewish Community call the events of this period “The Shoah”.
One third of the world’s Jewish people were murdered.
As the UN resolution points out, countless members of other minorities suffered a similar fate.
Our ceremony today was preceded by the opening of an exhibition on the Roma Holocaust on the balcony just above us.
If you have not had an opportunity to view that exhibition, I invite you to pass by afterwards.
It has been prepared by one of our partner organisations for the event, the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma.
As the UN resolution also reminds us, dedicating one day of the year to recall, remember and commemorate the holocaust is also about the future and the role of future generations.
We have structured our programme this afternoon to try to reflect these different dimensions.
Following my own statement, we will hear from Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, representing Jewish communities across the EU and beyond.
Indeed we are grateful to his organisation, the EJC, for the very close cooperation with the Parliament in putting this commemoration together.
With your organisation we have reached out to Jewish communities across the continent so that they could be present here for a truly continent-wide ceremony, worthy of the EU’s directly-elected assembly which represents over 500 million European citizens.
It is a great honour that the Speaker of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, Mr. Edelstein accepted our invitation to speak at today’s ceremony.
I am also grateful to the other Jewish organisations who have worked with us to prepare today’s events, the Conference of European Rabbis, represented by my dear friend Albert Guigui, Chief Rabbi of Brussels.
The March of the Living which arranges for young Europeans to visit Auschwitz every year to walk in the shoes of the victims of the holocaust.
We have a group of students from the Tachkemoni School in Antwerp participating in the ceremony, an important signal to the role of education.
Young people also have their place on the programme through Musica Mundi who will play for us, very poignantly combined with art and poetry from children in the camps.
Art and music play a role in cleansing the human heart, helping people to understand the meaning of good and evil, and of course helping people to grieve.
But it is an education that the UN resolution stressed so strongly.
It called on UN Member States to develop educational programmes that would teach the future generations the lessons of the holocaust so that it could never happen again. The notion of “Never Again” is one deeply ingrained in the psyche of the European Union.
It is useful to recall that the European project is at its root a project of peace and reconciliation, of seeking forgiveness for the evils committed on our continent in those terrible dark years.
As I mentioned earlier, seven decades after the barbarity of the Second World War and the Holocaust, we have few survivors still with us, to speak of the terrible crimes committed against them, and against humanity.
This is now the duty of new generations. They must work to keep the memory of the victims alive and to honour them by ensuring that it can never happen again.
We are greatly honoured that some of the survivors - both Jewish and Roma - accepted our invitation to commemorate the holocaust with us here in the European Parliament today.
I am also glad to know that the young students who are here in solidarity will soon visit Auschwitz for themselves as part of this process of education.
I too plan to visit that symbol of “Man’s inhumanity to Man” this year.
It is something that I believe every European citizen, but especially elected officials should do, as part of the same process of education and of remembrance, of honouring the memory of the millions of innocent victims of the holocaust; and of reciting with them, as they call from beyond the grave,