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Statement by Ambassador Heusgen at the United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony, January 31, 2018

31.01.2018 - Pressemitteilung

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Thank you, Under-Secretary-General Alison Smale. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and Ambassador Danny Danon for their inspiring remarks. I am moved by your words and profoundly honored to be with you today. I am humbled by the presence of the Holocaust survivors Honorable Judge Thomas Buergenthal and Eva Lavi, among others.

Holocaust Survivors and Families,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Today, we commemorate the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army on 27 January 1945. Since then, for 73 years, the word Auschwitz has stood for inconceivable suffering and systematic murder – not only in Auschwitz, but in the many other concentration and extermination camps, such as Treblinka and Majdanek or in places like Babi Yar, where tens of thousands were massacred.
  • First and foremost, this is a day to mourn the victims of the Nazi regime and remember those who were killed. We turn our thoughts to the 6 million murdered European Jews, to the Sinti and Roma, to the forced laborers, to those euthanized by the state, to the homosexuals – to all those who fell victim to the Nazi genocide.
  • We also honor those who survived the unthinkable suffering and witnessed the unspeakable cruelty and systematic murder during this dark period in German history.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • We honor survivors like Gertrud Roche from Wolczyn in Poland, who was sent to Auschwitz and survived four more concentration camps before she was ultimately liberated by British Forces.
  • Or, Susan Cernyak-Spatz from Vienna, who was deported to Auschwitz in 1943 and survived a death march to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp before being liberated by the Red Army.
  • Or, Andrzej Korczak-Branecki, who was arrested during the Warsaw uprising, sent to forced labor in Dachau and survived 3 death marches before he was finally liberated at Dachau.
  • Their portraits and those of around 40 other survivors can now be seen as part of the exhibition “Survivors, Victims, Perpetrators” here at the UN. These portraits and the stories of the other survivors serve as a constant reminder: “Never again.”
  • Never again is without a doubt the most important lesson from the Holocaust.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Former Federal President Joachim Gauck underlined that there is no German identity without Auschwitz. Remembering the Holocaust remains a matter for every citizen of Germany. It is part and parcel of our country’s history, he said.
  • Dealing with our National Socialist past consists of many elements. Besides Holocaust education in schools or universities, encounters with survivors and visits to places of remembrance are needed to understand the horrors of persecution, torture and murder, but also to address the responsibility of the perpetrators and to expose their motives. Dachau and Buchenwald, the Topography of Terror Foundation and the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin: these places of Nazi terror did not lose their gruesome impact, but they have turned into places of remembrance and education.
  • In 2015, Germany under Chancellor Merkel opened its doors to tens of thousands of refugees mainly fleeing atrocities in Syria. Many have stayed and live in Germany.

Immigrants are an important part of our society. As some come from places where anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are prevalent, we must take measures to include immigrants in our Holocaust education efforts. Unrestricted acceptance and support of Jewish life in Germany is therefore the benchmark for the successful integration of immigrants.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • Remembrance of the Holocaust teaches us to protect and preserve human life. It teaches us to protect and preserve the rights of every human being. If we want to prevent genocide, persecution and hate, we have to ensure the rule of law, pluralism, freedom and the respect for human rights.
  • These values are as fragile as they are precious. They require our constant commitment and daily effort, not only on Holocaust Remembrance Day. We need to speak out against racism, religious intolerance and anti-Semitism and to stand up against stereotypes, prejudices and hatred. We owe it to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, to their lives, their stories and their dignity.

I want to conclude with a quote of our former Federal President Horst Koehler, who ended his speech on 27 January 2009 with a promise: “We Germans will keep alive the memory of the crimes of National Socialism, and we will commemorate the victims. This is, to us, our mission. We are committed to upholding freedom, human rights and justice, and we will work to safeguard them. We will do this for the souls of the dead. And for our own.”

Thank you

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