JERUSALEM—The leaders of the three main European Union institutions, the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament, respectively Charles Michel, Ursula von der Leyen and David Sassoli, are in Jerusalem to attend – along with some 40 other world leaders- the 5th World Holocaust Forum which marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
The forum takes place Thursday at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre. A ceremony is scheduled on Wednesday at the Warsaw Ghetto Square.
It is the first visit in Israel of the three presidents of the European institutions since taking office in December.
In a common message they said that, “revisionism and lack of education are threatening the common understanding of the uniqueness of the Shoah that is necessary to translate “Never Again” into concrete action now”.
“We cannot change history, but the lessons of history can change us”, they added.
The World Holocaust Forum is titled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” and is organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, in cooperation with Yad Vashem and the European Jewish Congress, under the auspices of the President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin.
The Israeli president hosted Wednesday evening an official dinner for the over 40 global leaders at Beit HaNasi, the presidential residence in Jerusalem.
“This is a historic gathering, not only for Israel and the Jewish People, but for all humanity. This evening as we remember the victims of the Holocaust, and World War Two, we also mark the victory of freedom and human dignity,” Rivlin said in his address.
The president addressed the event as as did King Felipe VI of Spain and Israel Prize laureate Prof Yehuda Bauer. Among the honored guests were the President of France, the President of Germany, the President of Italy and many others. Among the Israeli dignitaries were the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Chairman of the World Holocaust Forum, the Chairman of Yad Vashem, Rabbi Yisrael Lau, Benny Gantz, the Speaker of the Knesset, the IDF Chief of Staff, the President of the Supreme Court and the Mayor of Jerusalem.
The evening began with a reception with the president welcoming each guest as they arrived with a handshake. The guests went from the reception to their places at the table for the official dinner. “Welcome to the official dinner in honor of the 5th World Holocaust Forum, under the auspices of the President of the State of Israel,” began the evening’s compere, Yael Lavie.
“The World Holocaust Forum marks International Holocaust Day in memories of the victims of the Shoah, and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The State of Israel deeply appreciates the fact that so many world leaders are participating in this forum to ensure we turn remembrance of the past into the promise of the future.”
In honor of the occasion, a special film was screened to the guests with comments by 44 world leaders calling for Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism which have been brought together in a unique book published by Yad Vashem and the World Holocaust Forum.
In his conclusion, President Rivlin stated: “The future lies in the choices we make, especially, those we make together, as countries and nations. I hope and pray that from this room, the message will go out to every country on earth, that the leaders of the world will stand united in the fight against racism, antisemitism and extremism, in de-fending democracy and democratic values. This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice.”
In his speech on behalf of the world leaders, King Felipe VI of Spain said, “Having a precious, rich and complex Jewish past and a vibrant Jewish community, Spain decided to create a solid framework of rules and initiatives to fight relentlessly against antisemitism and every form of xenophobia and racism. There are, of course, many more Nations ─both present here and others─ that are making similar efforts and progress; but, while I remain optimistic, I know ─we all know─ that we will always need to persevere together so that those words we have repeated so many times, “never again”, remain our guiding and unwithering principle.”