Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January 2014

An address by Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence,at the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration on Sunday, 26thJanuary 2014 in the Mansion House, Dublin at 6.00 p.m“Remembrance”We meet tonight, as we do the same time every year, to remember the 6million Jewish people, men, women and children, who died in the Shoah, (theHolocaust) and also the other victims of the barbarism and inhumanity ofNazi Germany: the Roma and Sinti communities, Slavs, gay men, disabledpersons, Jehovah Witnesses and dissidents who were murdered.We remember the obsessive genocidal objective of Adolf Hitler, HeinrichHimmler, Rudolph Hess, Adolf Eichman, and all of those who were dedicatedto the elimination of European Jewry and the active complicity of theirmany collaborators from states across Europe who assisted the Nazis toachieve their evil goal.We remember the Nazis murdered over 1.5 million children and, inextinguishing their lives and those of their parents, extinguished never tobe conceived nor born uncountable future generations.We remember that on average on each day of the Second World war, 3,000Jews were murdered. But that does not tell the full story, as that averagewould not have been achieved without increasing the efficiency of theindustrial killing machines genocidal extermination.  Even when they werelosing the war, the Nazis intensified their mass killing of Jews, so drivenwere they by their aim of turning to ashes, Jewish civilisation.For European Jewry in mainland Europe, the entirety of the 1939-45 period,is a period of unimaginable horror and terror.  It is right in this firstmonth of 2014 that we remember that January 1944 , just 70 years ago,marked for the Jewish people, the start of another catastrophic yearwhilst it also laid the foundations for the wars ultimate end with anAllied victory.On the 3rd of January 1944 Russian troops reached the former Polish border,and the 6th of June 1944 was D-Day when Allied troops landed in Normandy.Tragically for the Jewish people these events did not deter but spurred onimplementation of the Nazi’s “final solution”.   70 years on we rememberthat in 1944 the industrial killing of Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau increasedto 10,000 human beings each day.  We remember that 1944 is the year of thedeportation of over 400,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz; the year whensome 15,000 French Jews, including children, were rounded up andtransported mainly to Auschwitz.   It is the year when the Lodz Ghetto, thelast Jewish ghetto in Poland, was liquidated with 60,000 Jews sent toAuschwitz and, on the 4th August 1944, Anne Frank and her family werearrested by the Gestapo in Amsterdam, sent to Auschwitz and Anne and hersister later on to Bergen-Belsen where Anne Frank died of typhus on 15thMarch 1945 shortly before the war’s end. We also remember that 1944 is theyear when a Red Cross delegation visited Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.The visit took place in June 1944 after the Nazis had carefully preparedthe camp and the Jewish inmates in it for the visit.  We remember thatfollowing that visit the Red Cross published a favourable report.In remembering the genocidal atrocities committed, it is also right that weremember those people of courage and conviction, the righteous amongnations who placed their lives at risk to save thousands of Jewish lives.1944 is the year when the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg saved nearly30,000 Hungarian Jews and Oscar Schindler saved 1,200 Jews by moving themfrom Płaszów labour camp in Kraków, Poland, to his home town of Brünnlitz.It was also in July of 1944 that the first concentration camp wasliberated,  Majdenek, by Russian troops  where 360.000 had been murdered.More liberations were to follow. Towards the end of October 1944 use of thegas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau ended and Hitler ordered the destructionof the crematoria on 25th November 1944.  At the end of 1944 the allieswere poised on the Rhine, Danube, and Vistula. The end of the war and thedefeat of Hitler was in sight.  It was a time of hope but too many, not yetliberated, did not survive to see their hopes fulfilled.Irish Jewry escaped the Shoah.  However, the then Irish Jewish communitywas not forgotten by those who so meticulously planned the final solution.It was numbered and expressly prescribed for elimination on a map preparedby Adolf Eichmann that can today be viewed in Yad Vashem, the HolocaustMemorial, in Jerusalem.   It is right that we remember that many of thosefrom the Jewish community present here this evening and the children,grandchildren, and great grandchildren which form part of the Irish JewishDiaspora across the world would never have been born had the Allied Forcesnot prevailed.It was for too long easily forgotten that 60,000 citizens of the neutralIrish Free State joined the Allied Forces to fight against tyranny duringWorld War Two, amongst them over 5,000 who deserted our own Defence Forcesto do so.  I believe that the legislation I brought before the Dáil lastyear and which was enacted with the full support of my Cabinet colleaguesand the Members of both Houses of the Oireachtas to extend to all of thosewho deserted an amnesty and forgiveness by the State for their desertionwas a long overdue recognition by this State of the important role thatthey played.  As Minister for Defence, I believe it is right that desertionby any member of our Defence Forces be treated as a serious offence but itis also right and just that we finally recognised the unprecedentedextenuating circumstances of that time, the morality of their actions andexpressed our gratitude.   Although this gesture  on behalf of the Statecame too late for most of the war veterans, I know it is of importance totheir families and descendants.We remember also the survivors who have carried through their lives theburden of the terrible memories of what they saw and experienced,acknowledge the courage of those who have told their stories and have hadthe strength to bear witness so that we know today of the horrors of a pastwhich must never be repeated.  Among us tonight we are privileged to haveTomi Reichental, Jan Kaminski and Inge Radford.  I want to thank each ofyou for your generosity for sharing your experiences with the widercommunity and also thank Susi Diamond who cannot be with us. We owe a greatdebt of gratitude to the survivors for their bravery in relivingunimaginable memories for the good of others and for ensuring that todaysgenerations know and understand the evil they experienced in the earlyyears of their lives.We live in a complex and difficult world in which historical fact can bedistorted and contaminated and become an inconvenient truth should itchallenge a contemporary political narrative in which some have a vestedinterest. Holocaust denial is the favourite sport of some, in particular inEurope, and in the Middle East. It is the first cousin of those who stillsee Jews, for no reason other than they are Jewish, as legitimate targetsfor hate speech and random violence and of extremists who would, if theycould, bring about a second Holocaust by the extermination of the 6 millionJews who today are citizens of the State of Israel.  As Europeans, andEuropean nations, we must give no comfort to those who express such views,engage in such conduct, or who have any such objective. We should also havea greater understanding of legitimate concerns aroused by threats made toeliminate the Israeli state and by political campaigns sponsored by statesor others to delegitimize its existence. It is right that we remember thatIsrael declared its independence in 1948, its existence as a state havingbeen first sanctioned and endorsed by United Nations Resolution, and that amajority of that states citizens in 1948 were Jews who would likely haveperished in Europe had they not resided there in the preceding decades andremnants of European Jewry who survived the Holocaust.It is also right that we remember that too many in a position of politicalleadership turned their backs on the Jews of Germany during the early yearsof Nazi repression and utterly failed to address the peril in which theyfound themselves.  Hitler almost succeeded in his objective to make Europe“Juden Frei”.  In today’s Europe, political leaders should be conscious ofEurope’s history and past failures and be slow to endorse or advocate, thatany part of the Middle East be rendered entirely  “Juden Frei” as theprimary focus of any conflict resolution process.  The tragic truth ofcourse, is that today many parts of that region are “Juden Frei” and thatJewish communities that flourished for countless generations no longerexist.In Ireland, it is right that we remember that the doors of this State werekept firmly closed to Jewish families who desperately sought to come herefrom Germany for sanctuary during the Nazi terror of the 1930s. Theysubstantially remained closed even after the concentration camps wereliberated and emaciated survivors staggered traumatised through the openedgates.  We recall, with moral revulsion, the  advices in December 1938 ofCharles Bewley, the then Irish minister plenipotentiary in Berlin, and arabid anti-Semite, to the Irish Government. Endorsing the Nazi narrative,supporting the Fuhrer’s objective of “the elimination of the Jewish elementfrom the public life of Germany” and all of the restrictions imposed onGerman Jewry, he advised that the “Jewish problem” was best left to bedealt with by “individual governments” stating that “not only in Germanybut in every state where they exist in any quantity, the Jews are regardedas an alien body”.   Stating that “every state which has experience ofJews, including those with Catholic clergyman at their head, finds itnecessary to introduce similar special measures restricting theiractivities” he stated he was “not aware” of any “cases of deliberatecruelty” on the part of the German government towards Jews and complainedof “the complete want of proportion” in the “importance ascribed to eventsin Germany” by British and Irish papers critical of Jewish persecution.As Europeans we have an obligation to ensure the Shoah is not denied,falsified, trivialised or relativised in a time when the e-book version ofHitler’s Mein Kampf is a best seller.  We condemn the recent falsifyingremarks of Sandor Szakaly- the director of the new government createdhistorical institute misnamed “Veritas” in Hungary describing the 1941deportation of Jewish people to Ukraine as “a police action againstaliens”.  It was, in fact, in July and August of 1941 the rounding up anddeportation to German held territory in Ukraine of about 18.000 foreignborn Jewish people who had sought refuge in Hungary at the outbreak of theSecond World War. Most of them were included among the more than 23,000Jewish people murdered by the Nazis at the end of 1941.We must always recognise and act upon our sacred duty to challenge thosewho still propagate the endemic anti-Semitic hatred and prejudicecultivated in parts of Europe during past centuries which resulted in theunimaginable genocidal obscenity of the Holocaust.Today we remind ourselves that the Shoah was the lethal poisonous fruit ofanti-Semitism.  We recall that it was an unfolding constellation of evilevents from the Nuremberg laws of 1933 to the ghettos and the slave labourand death camps.  The unfolding evil of the Shoah began not in the deathcamps but with anti-Semitic hate speech.As Europeans, we must confront the rise in anti Semitism, xenophobia,racism, homophobia and hate crimes. In Europe, the economic crisis hasspawned new parties and revitalised  pre-existing parties of the extremeright whose anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric is both corrosive anddangerous.  For example, in Greece we have Golden Dawn; in Hungary, Jobbik;in France the National Front; in Bulgaria Ataka and the Bulgarian NationalParty; and in Britain the British National Party and UKIP.  Unfortunately,some of these are no longer on the fringes of political life and there isgrowing concern over the level of support they will attract in theforthcoming European Parliamentary elections.  This legitimate concern  ispartly fuelled by the failure of Governments and mainstream parties inEurope to confront and denounce the prejudice they pedal and by theirpartial embrace of a xenophobic agenda.It is not enough that we remember the Holocaust we must also remember themoral imperative to act to unequivocally repudiate the reprehensiblerhetoric of those who contaminate our political discourse and attempt toinflame dangerous prejudice.Central to the values of the European Union are the principles ofdemocracy, equality and human rights.  During Ireland’s Presidency of theEuropean Union, as Minister for Justice and Equality, together with theextraordinary and dedicated public servants in my Justice Department, Iworked to ensure that there was a greater focus by the European Union onthe taking of coordinated action at European Union level in this area.  Weinitiated a debate on a working mechanism to better support the protectionof fundamental rights and the rule of law in member states.Along with several other member states and the EU Agency for FundamentalRights, Ireland is involved in a cooperative project to identify amethodology which will enable us to measure adherence to the rule of lawand our shared EU values across all member states. I believe that doing sohas a vital role to play in protecting the fundamental rights of all EUresidents and in tackling extreme intolerance across the European Union.The need for this was starkly illustrated by a report on anti-Semitismpublished by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in November last.  Ashocking 76% of Jewish people surveyed across EU member states felt thatanti-Semitism has worsened in the past 5 years.  Over half of therespondents had encountered first hand experience of Holocaust denialwithin the previous year and a third had suffered some form of anti-Semiticharassment within the previous 5 years.   Amongst those surveyed 29%stated they were considering emigrating from the EU member state in whichthey and their families were resident.  (I find none of this surprising inthe context of my own personal experience of the racist and prejudicedonline commentary which all too frequently results on occasions when I amin the public eye.)Today’s ceremony is about remembrance and I firmly believe remembrance mustbe active, not passive.  Remembrance is an act, a deliberate undertaking,and remembering the Shoah must remain a moral duty.  That duty requiresthat we do everything we can to honour the victims of the past by workingto prevent similar horrors in the future.Today, we remember those whose lives were taken.  We remember those whosuffered. We remember those who fought back.  We honour the survivors whosestrength and bravery helps us in our duty of remembrance. We alsoacknowledge the pivotal importance of education in relation to the Shoahand of teaching in our schools this dark shameful chapter in Europeanhistory.Education is vital to protect, in the face of irrational prejudice, everyperson’s fundamental human right to be treated as a moral equal.  Strivingto counteract forgetfulness in relation to the Shoah requires activelyfostering mutual respect and concern for all people.    I acknowledge thatthe Holocaust Education Trust Ireland plays an important role in preservingmemory of the Shoah and in promoting equal concern and respect for allpersons.  It is assisted in this important work by financial support fromthe Department of Justice and Equality and such support will continue.Faithful to this fundamental moral purpose, we commit ourselves toadvancing the universal human rights of all people. We reject words of hateand the denial of historical facts whose sole objective is to deny to theJewish people their right to a secure place on this planet without fear ofpersecution or extermination.  We recognise also our obligation to treatothers as we wish to be treated, to respect their human rights and to dowhat we can to prevent and resolve conflict.  We remember the murderedmillions who died what the Jewish poet Wladyslaw Szlengel called “a garbagedeath” and say “Never again”.  To the murdered millions, who were denied“zechut” or the reward of a full life, we solemnly accord “zachor”,remembrance.  And we insist on the essential moral message that preventingnew barbarities is not just the responsibility of others but is theresponsibility of each of us – one by one – and of all of us together fromgeneration to generation (l’dor vador).

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