Holocaust Memorial Day speech by CEJI President, Baron Alain Philippson
The following is the opening speech by Baron Alain Philippson, President of CEJI - A Jewish Conribution to an Inclusive Europe, at a special event in Brussels to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The speech was delivered on 27 January 2015, International Holocaust Memorial Day:
Good evening Mr President of the European Economic and Social Committee; Mr Vice-President of the European Parliament; Your Excellencies Ambassadors; Ladies and Gentlemen; it is my great honour to be here and to address you on this occasion.
January 27 alone is a victory over barbarism in our living memory. Auschwitz, the factory that killed human beings, has become a symbol of the Holocaust, a symbol of evil and an example of total inhumanity within modern consciousness, whenever the lowest of lowest instincts resurfaces.
Today, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camps. This grim anniversary that marks the disappearance of children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents ...human beings who were not considered good enough, as Jewish, Romani, homosexual, disabled...
We also commemorate the hope that this atrocity aroused and awakened, giving hope to live on a peaceful continent, in a peaceful world. Hope that no individual may be, once again, mocked, insulted, excluded, threatened, abused, destroyed...
We failed. We thought, albeit wrongly, that the belly of the beast would never be fruitful.
But, as Charlie Chaplin said in his final speech in his film, "The Great Dictator": "Do not lose hope! The love of humanity is buried in your heart!”
More than ever, education is a key, the key. Do not let the walls of indifference stand up, do not let fear be and extremism be right! The legacy we leave to future generations will be the future of Europe. They will require intense vigilance, relentless civil courage, inclusive tolerance, and respect for the other - this other who may seem so different to us, so distant, yet often so similar.
I am proud to have around me tremendously motivated colleagues, ensuring that bridges are built, that fractures are reduced, and that dialogue takes place between the transmission of memory and democracy. We are in a crisis, we seek to extinguish the fire by all means, we try to reassure ourselves, to rediscover the spark of humanity that exists in all of us...
The educational tools exist, high-quality programmes for teachers, educators, and social workers are available, so do we really have to wait for democracy to falter for us to seize the opportunity to educate? Prevention is the best protection!
I wish to address the young people especially who are here today: You are the symbol of hope. It is your task to continue the duty to remember, to be vigilant that there will never be, in Europe, or anywhere else in the world, another Auschwitz.
In saying this, I partly feel that this is wishful thinking when I see our lack of action, when I think of the tragedies that have taken place, and are still taking place, before our eyes. You are the citizens of tomorrow who, in turn, will have the responsibility to defeat anything that could lead to the same cycle of hatred and violence that would inevitably lead to barbarism. Do better than us!
I put my trust in you. Do not forget the past! Use education as a tool against ignorance and obscurantism. As European citizens, we are all responsible, both politicians and civil society, to make Europe an example, where its citizens contribute to a land where peace and respect for human dignity reside.