In the presence of the President of Israel Isaac Herzog, the European Parliament marked the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. In her speech, President Metsola said that our duty is to keep speaking. “Hate still finds too many voices excusing it. Too many families in Europe and around the world live with packed suitcases by their door. We cannot allow anyone to find comfort in ignorance.”
© European Union | The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola and the President of Israel Isaac Herzog
inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial “The Refugee” by Felix Nussbaum in front of Parliament’s plenary chamber
Every year around the 27th of January, the world remembers the millions of innocent men, women and children who were murdered in history’s greatest crime. A crime intended to wipe off a people from the earth. A crime designed to inflict horror on generations. A crime that has shaped our modern European project, into an embodiment of the timeless promise: Never again.
It was a crime that saw 6 million Jewish people murdered - for being Jewish. That saw Roma and Sinti people targeted. That saw LGBTI communities eradicated and so many others humiliated and killed, because of their ethnicity, disability, identity, race or beliefs.
It is difficult to imagine the horrors of the Holocaust and the actions that led up to it. The fear of mothers and fathers, the quiet suffering of so many. The little children forced to hide in holes in basements and attics. The Rabbis who remained dignified as they were forced to scrub pavements while crowds laughed and mocked. The impossible choices faced by so many every day in so many Member States.
The Holocaust did not happen overnight. “Auschwitz did not fall from the sky” as survivor Marian Turski said three years ago. The alarm bells should have rang before.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, gave a lecture in 2012 where he said one of the things that haunted him about the Holocaust was the horror of the silence. “Where were the voices? Where were protests?” he asked. This was done in living memory. In the age of enlightenment, rationalism, science and art and culture. This did not happen in a frenzy of hate. It took time, it was built up. The dehumanisation process started before the camps. And what was truly horrifying, he said, is the almost total absence of horror at the time.
His appeal was for us to “resolve that if the moment comes, we will stand up and speak out, so that no one will have reason to say: when we cried, you were not listening; when we suffered, you were silent”. That is why, even if it is hard to describe these crimes, we must keep speaking. Why we must never forget.
We must speak because ours is the last generation to receive first-hand accounts from survivors of the Holocaust. Our duty becomes even greater when the voices of those survivors cannot be heard any longer, it is our responsibility to remember and to pass-down testimonies to future generations. To educate.
We must speak because despite decades of effort, anti-Semitism still exists. Hate still finds too many voices excusing it. Too many families in Europe and around the world live with packed suitcases by their door. We cannot allow anyone to find comfort in ignorance.
Let me repeat what I said in the Knesset: to be anti-Semitic is to be anti-European.
Our first woman President, Simone Veil, was herself a survivor - who grew up to change the face of Europe - and her legacy is present in these halls and buildings She understood that “neutrality only helps the oppressor”. And the European Parliament will always take a side: the side of respect, the side of human dignity, the side of equality, the side of hope.
This Parliament is proud that we have not been silent. Not when it comes to fighting hate and discrimination. Not when it comes to anti-Semitism and religious freedom. And we will keep acting to ensure that our communities are not marginalised by exclusion, hatred or indifference.
We have not been silent when it comes to standing up for our values. Nor when it comes to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the rhetoric used to try to justify it. Neither have we been silent when it comes to the regime in Iran who execute young people standing up for women, life and liberty.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Tomorrow marks 78 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. A liberation from evil that proved that despite everything, hope endures. Even when all around is hopelessness.
The same hope that led to the Declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel 75 years ago this year. A nation that has endured, flourished and sustained a democracy despite all odds.
President Herzog, as I said in Israel, the bond between the people of Europe and the people of Israel has been forged in the horror of our common history. A bond whose strength lies in its openness, honesty, straightforwardness – even criticism – but a bond that has and will withstand the test of time.
And yet, our peoples share more than history and a promise to remember. We also share a common destiny - and a future that will endure.