Sehr geehrter Herr Kosche,
Sehr geehrter Herr Voigt,
Meine verehrten Damen und Herren,
es ist mir eine Ehre, dieses Jahr wieder hier in der Jüdischen Gemeinde zu Berlin zu sein, um mit Ihnen den Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Holocausts zu würdigen. Ich möchte dem italienischen Kulturinstitut in Berlin dafür danken, dass es auch in diesem Jahr eine so bemerkenswerte Veranstaltung organisiert hat. Sie wird uns in die Reise eines in Berlin geborenen jüdischen Mädchens hineinführen, das 1942 einen sicheren Hafen in Italien, in der Villa Emma, fand.
Und jetzt, erlauben Sie mir, ins Englische zu wechseln.
Standing up for the truth remains essential – the truth of what happened in the recent past, as well the truth of what is still happening today.
We must recognize that the Holocaust has shaken the foundations of our own civilization.
So, the duty to remember it, to transfer its painful memory to next generations is not only a moral obligation, but also a way to preserve, to defend and to promote the European civilization, which is based – beyond its diverse religious beliefs, ideological belongings or political affiliations – on the respect for the dignity of each human being.
So, when we proclaim “never again”, we must commit ourselves to translate such an imperative into every day of our life, as individuals as well as members of our families, communities and civil societies.
This implies the duty to keep our eyes open, to remain vigilant against any attempt to dilute or relativize the horror of the Holocaust, to consign it to history among the appalling events that would never happen again.
This is primarily true for Italy and for Germany.
As the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, remembered last week while commemorating the Holocaust in Israel, “Memory and responsibility are essential tools in the continuous and strenuous struggle against anti-semitism. Both are basic elements of the necessary vaccine against the dangerous virus of indifference, which, in the absence of a clear-cut reaction, risks infecting the vital tissues of a democratic society, allowing the spread of anti-Semitism. Silence always favours the aggressor, never the victim.”
Indeed, if we were to yield to the thesis of oblivion, we would also risk forgetting that from those tragedies we have drawn the roots and the motivation for the long journey that – through the struggle in Europe against Nazi-fascism, through the Resistance and the recovery of democratic values and freedom – have led both our Nations to the adoption of our Constitutions and, through the path of European integration, to lay the foundations of a common future.
Was this not always based on remembrance; we would be turning our backs on ourselves, on our history, on our values. We would open the way to a triumph of the unawareness of our own identity, to the victory of indifference to what authentically constitutes our common European heritage.
To that end, let me recall what was recently said by Hon. Liliana Segre, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birchenau, a fighter for Remembrance, a prominent member of the Italian Jewish community whom our Head of State appointed Senator for life in 2018, on the Eighties Anniversary of the promulgation of anti-Semitic laws in Italy.
Liliana Segre pointed out that against violence you can react; against indifference, this is much more difficult: if somebody turns away while crossing you in the street, he could always say he was not aware, or pretend his behaviour was unintended….
This is what happened too often in Europe during the tragic years of racial persecutions against the Jewish people.
Who was aware kept silent, who suspected did not elaborate.
Some survivors from the Holocaust – that I had the opportunity to meet – remembered how the worst suffering was the awful lack of solidarity they found around themselves, in the streets, among friends, colleagues, neighbours.
This sort of collective removal delivered millions of innocent people to the hand of their murderers, in the guilty silence of those not directly threatened.
This is the attitude we must defeat today.
Indifference is our worst enemy. Remembrance our best ally.
Nevertheless, remembrance of the past is not enough, unless it gives us new energies to defend and promote human dignity in all circumstances.
As you know, 2020 will be a very special year for remembrance: it marks the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, and our Presidents Sergio Mattarella and Frank-Walter Steinmeier were both attending the World Holocaust Forum in Yad Vashem.
2020 will also mark the fifteen Anniversary of the UN Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on the Holocaust Remembrance on 1st November 2005, designating 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and urging Members States “to develop educational programmes that will inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide”.
2020 will be a key year also for Germany. In March this year, Germany will assume the Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Italy was IHRA’s chair in 2018-2019, and there is a common challenge ahead of us: the decline in historical knowledge among the younger generations. We are glad that Germany will take over this challenge also during its Chairmanship.
From next July, Germany will also be President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union. One week ago, during the opening of the new permanent exhibition at the House of the Wannsee Conference, State Minister Müntefering confirmed the resolve of the German Government to make the fight against antisemitism a key priority of its EU Presidency, including proposals to improve criminal prosecution and better protection for Jewish institutions, as well as measures to promote education and integration and to step up the fight against hate crime and disinformation on the internet. Italy stands ready to support Germany’s endeavour also on this matter.
2020 will be very significant also for my country. It will mark the twentieth anniversary of the Decree, adopted unanimously in July 2000 by the Italian Parliament, establishing January 27th as the “Giorno della Memoria”. The scope of “Il Giorno della Memoria” is wide, national and comprehensive: it is being defined by our Decree as the “Remembrance Day to remember the Shoah, the racial laws, the Italian persecution against Jewish citizens, the Italian citizens who underwent deportation, detention, death, as well as all those who – even belonging to different affiliations – struggled against the intended extermination, putting their own life at risk to save other lives and to protect the persecuted”.
Professor Giulio Busi, Director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at the Freie Universität, recalled in its recently published book in Italy “La Pietra Nera del Ricordo”, on the first two decades of “La Giornata della Memoria”, a quote from the Zohar: “What is the stone of darkness? It is the end, which belongs to obscurity. What does “the end” mean? Rabbi Shimon once said: it is a place where there is no memory”.
This cannot happen.
It would offend the sacrifice of our fellow citizens whose life has been taken.
It would imply to undo the mourning of family members and the pain of an entire community.
It would also deny the courage of those “Righteous among the Nations”, women and men, religious and secular, who were capable to listen to the voice of their conscience, to reject the ideology of hatred and to subtract many human lives from a dreadful fate.
As President Steinmeier said in his extraordinary speech at Yad Vashem, “The spirits of evil are emerging in a new guise, presenting their anti-Semitic, racist, authoritarian thinking as an answer for the future, a new solution to the problems of our age. (….)
Of course, our age is a different age.
The words are not the same.
The perpetrators are not the same.
But it is the same evil. And there remains only one answer: Never again! Nie wieder!”.