Saturday, 19 Oct 2019 - 20 of Tishri, 5780

The European Parliament plenary pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust

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European Parliament President Antonio Tajani stressed that this commemoration constitutes  a ‘’very strong signal that we do not and we will not forget.’’ ‘’The Holocaust must always be a warning for us,’’ he said.

BRUSSELS—At the start of its plenary session in Brussels on Wednesday, the European Parliament held a ceremony  to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

It is the first time that such a commemoration takes place during the parliament plenary.

Before the members of the parliament observed a minute of silence to the memory of the six millions Jews murdered during WWII, the assembly’s president Antonio Tajani stressed that this commemoration constitutes  a ‘’very strong signal that we do not and we will not forget.’’ ‘’The Holocaust must always be a warning for us,’’ he said.

”Today we renew our commitment to keeping memory alive and to fight relentlessly every possible form of hatred, discrimination and anti-Semitism,” Tajani added.

”Perpetuating the memory of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust is not just an act of commemoration, but an essential step in the process of healing, both personal and collective. It is essential to prevent tragedies of this kind from recurring in the future. The Holocaust must remain a perennial warning.  We must not tolerate acts of violence and racial hatred.”

Referring to the results of the latest Eurobarometer data, 50% of European citizens believe that anti-Semitism is a problem in their country. ”This shows that, unfortunately, the virus of anti-Semitism has not yet been eradicated.  We must react firmly to any reappearance of the seeds of hatred. Our values and our history are stronger than intolerance and violence. Europe has proven this many times over. The European Parliament has been and will always be at the side of those who suffer acts of hatred and discrimination,” Tajani noted.

He continued: ”Our message today is clear: there is no place in the European Union for hatred and anti-Semitism. We will not allow the tragic mistakes of the past to be repeated: “never again”.

He also noted that, in order to devote a minute to each one of the Holocaust victims, ”we would have to remain silent for more than eleven years.”

During the ceremony, MEPs heard the testimony of Holocaust survivor Charlotte Knobloch, former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.  She was only three years old when she was banned from playing with other children in her neighbourhood. She was Jewish and that was her only fault.  She miraculously survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, thanks to a Christian woman who worked for her family.

In her address to MEPs, 86-year-old Knoblauch warned against the fact that antisemitism is rising its head again and that movements opposed to commemoration of the Holocaust are gaining strength.

She said that even though post-war European democracies have turned out to be robust, “a Europe in which 89 percent of the Jewish population complains about an increase in antisemitism in their home country has got a problem. ‘A Europe in which more than a third of Jews is considering emigrating has a problem.”

“We are witnessing everywhere in Europe the strengthening of political movements that are resolutely opposed to remembrance and memory. What they propagate is a present without a past, as a springboard to a future without memory.”

She continued: “Hatred against Jews poisons society as a whole. It mocks the basic European belief that freedom and security is for every single European citizen, or else, for no one. It is our duty to oppose this widespread antisemitism and to push back. That is our responsibility.”

Knobloch didn’t spare political parties on the left and right of the spectrum from criticism. She called out Germany’s AfD and Britain’s Labour Party, which she said “has become, under Jeremy Corbyn, the most blatant case of political anti-Semitism in Europe.”

Talking about the challenges that the EU is facing today, she stated that the “EU can defend its values only if it remains united”.

She called on EU leaders to fight firmly against growing antisemitism. ‘’Never again must not turn into once again,’’ she concluded.

The special commemoration, which ended with the Ravel’s mourners Kaddish played by the Musical Chapel of Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, was also attended by Romania’s Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, whose country currently chairs the EU, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, as well as religious leaders from various faiths.

During the minute of silence, the drawings of the children detained in the ghetto of Terezin have been  projected in the plenary. There were about 15,000 of them. Only 150 survived. In perpetual memory of their drama, they left their creations on paper which are now on display at the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague.

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