“It is a painful reminder of how incredible a privilege it is for our generation to be able to listen to the first-hand accounts of those who directly experienced the tragedy of the Holocaust. We have a duty to listen. To remember. But also, a duty to act decisively against antisemitism in its contemporary forms,” declared Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission during an online joint International Holocaust Remembrance Day event, co-hosted by the European Commission and the European Jewish Congress (EJC).
During the event, Schinas, who leads the EU Commission’s work on the fight against antisemitism, was in conversation with Tomi Reichental, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen, on the lessons of the Holocaust for 21st century Europe, new forms of remembrance, concepts of atonement and reconciliation, and our common duty to speak up and counter Holocaust denial and distortion.
Excerpts of the film “Close to Evil” were also shown at the event. The film is the compelling story of Reichental’s quest to meet one of the SS women who held him captive in Bergen- Belsen.
EJC President Moshe Kantor called on the EU member states to ensure that Holocaust survivors have access to a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible.
“We have all been lost during the current pandemic, but the survivors of the Holocaust even more so,” he said. “Throughout their lives, they have shown mighty strength of spirit, but in the current crisis, many have sadly died alone and in pain, or are now fighting for their lives, and many others are suffering from extreme isolation. We have a duty to survivors, to ensure that they are able to live their last years in dignity, without fear, and in the company of their loved ones.”
Kantor also spoke about how during the pandemic, hate, extremism and conspiracy theories have also spread globally.
“The pandemic has created the social conditions where antisemitism and extremism thrive. The human mind, like the human body, is fragile to mutating viruses. And so are our democracies and our shared values of human rights and freedoms.”
‘’I am pleased that the European Union and Member States are finally addressing this new threat by recognizing that antisemitism needs to be fought across all policy areas,” Kantor added.