“Let My People Live!”
The Fourth International Forum

The Fourth
International
"Let My People Live"
Forum

26-27 JANUARY 2015
PRAGUE / TEREZIN,
CZECH REPUBLIC

Forum's Brochure

The Fourth International “Let My People Live!” Forum was held in Prague and Terezin (Czech Republic) on 26-27 January 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. The two-day event consisted of two major parts, the Forum of World Civil Society held at Prague Castle and the commemorative ceremony in Terezin.

The Forum, organised by the EJC and the WHF in collaboration with the European Parliament and its President Martin Schulz, was attended by over 900 guests, including 30 official delegations and representatives of parliaments, European Heads of state as well as experts and scholars from Europe, United States and Canada, who gathered together to participate in three discussion panels focused on antisemitism, neo-Nazism and religious radicalism.

National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Abraham Foxman, historian and Yale University professor Timothy Snyder, American historian and author Alan Dershowitz, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, MP Irwin Cotler, French writer and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy,  Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, and other preeminent individuals took part in the various panels on the Forum’s first day.

EJC President Moshe Kantor, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament Jan Hamáček and President of the Czech Senate Milan Štěch addressed the audience.

On 27 January 2015, Czech President Miloš Zeman hosted the final session of the Forum and addressed the audience at the official ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust’s victims alongside Rosen Plevneliev, President of Bulgaria, Yuli Yoel Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset and EJC President Moshe Kantor.

At the conclusion of the Fourth International Holocaust Forum, 25 Speakers from Parliaments across the continent came together to adopt a historic document – The Prague Declaration on Combatting Antisemitism and Hate Crimes.

Subsequently, a commemorative ceremony took place in Theresienstadt, a concentration camp that served as a transit station on the way to other death camps.

The Forum concluded with the unveiling of the Monument offered by the EJC and its President Moshe Kantor to the Terezin Memorial to honour the memory of the victims.

MESSAGE
FROM
MOSHE
KANTOR

On behalf of the European Jewish Congress, federating all the national representative organizations of the Jewish communities on this continent, thank you for the commitment you have shown to our common values of peace, unity and tolerance by taking part in The Fourth International ‘Let My People Live!’ Forum here in the Czech Republic.

This year, we mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Few of those who directly encountered those horrors lived to share their experiences. And as the years pass by, sadly still fewer are here to personally impart the lessons of these terrible events. As memory fast becomes history, their experiences, Europe’s own experience of Nazism, totalitarianism, intolerance, war and destruction, fades into the back of our minds.

Direct transition of experience can apply at most from the first to the third generation, to the personal connection of grandchild and grandparent. The time has now come when we require other forms, such as education in society, modernization of legislations and direct governmental influence in order to be truly immune from repeating the mistakes of the past.

Seventy years, a lifetime later, we run the danger of forgetting where nationalism, chauvinism, racism and anti-Semitism can lead. But we also forget where misplaced tolerance towards those who would seek to destroy our societies also leads. More than anywhere else on this continent, here in the Czech Republic we saw what happened when there was a tolerance of extremism and a misplaced desire for a quiet life that caused us to deliberately avoid the real issues that plagued our societies. The failure to tackle Nazism and the appeasement that allowed it to swallow up the infant Czechoslovak democracy did not lead to peace, it led to war.

And for many years afterwards, this continent remained divided.

Today, together, we have a unique chance to address some of the causes of our previous greatest tragedy in order to ensure that it will not be repeated. Our gatherings here of the most senior political decision-makers and our discussions among intellectuals, opinion-formers and leaders will address the most pressing issues facing all of our societies.

Each of you has a unique contribution to make to our collective Forum, based on your own experiences to the challenges we all share and from which none of us is immune. In our 21st-century Europe, we face new challenges of globalization, economic uncertainty and depression, the positive – but also sometimes corrosive – nature of mass communications, and perhaps, our greatest current threat of all, religious extremism and fundamentalism.

We will not hide here from addressing these most sensitive subjects affecting the citizens of Europe, and neither will we push aside a real examination of their roots and causes as well as proposals for practical solutions. Indeed, Czech history, Europe’s most recent history and the site of the Terez.n death camp bear absolute testimony to why we cannot do otherwise.

May I take this opportunity to thank President Miloš Zeman, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the government of the Czech Republic, as well as the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, for being our partners on this Forum and for understanding the absolute urgency to act now before it is too late.

Let all of the peoples of Europe live.


In this office Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Reich Main Security Office, drew up plans for the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Question’.

The Location
Prague Castle

The first part of our Forum is held in the Prague Castle, today the seat of the President of the Czech Republic.

The buildings that make up the Prague Castle complex, the largest palace area in the world, stretch back to 880 ad. They have witnessed some of the most important as well as some of the most horrific events throughout European history. This Castle, this city and this country always played a crucial role in developments which shaped the continent. 

But little more than a couple of generations ago, these buildings and the events and personalities present within it, symbolized the very beginnings of Nazi terror as the jackboot of Nazism came down upon Europe.

Here, the puppet regime was installed after the shameful Munich agreement of September 1938 in which democratic Czechoslovakia was dismantled and its border regions attached to the ‘Third Reich’, becoming later one of the victims of the so-called ‘Kristallnacht’. That was only a beginning in the Nazi plan to rule the world.

And it was from here, from his fiefdom in the Prague Castle, that one of the major architects of the Shoah, Reinhard Heydrich, installed here as the ‘Deputy Protector’, masterminded his plans to exterminate all Jews of Europe. From here came Heydrich’s direct orders for the  Einzatzgruppen units of the SS to rampage and murder the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe.

"If history is to teach us anything, it is this sad axiom: those who start with hunting down and killing Jews invariably continue with discriminating, suppressing, and finally murdering everybody who disagrees with tyranny, suffocation of freedom, oppression and humiliation."
Excerpt from the Introductory Speech by Dr. Moshe Kantor

PRAGUE DECLARATION ON COMBATING ANTI-SEMITISM AND HATE CRIMES

We, the Round Table of Speakers of Parliament gathered here today in Prague for the 70th commemoration ceremony of the Holocaust, express our grave concern about the rise in the verbal, digital and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism and hate crimes, predominately in Europe but also worldwide, directed towards Jewish individuals and communities, institutions and religious facilities.

Anti-Semitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity and is often used to blame them for ‘why things go wrong’. It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms, social networks, demonstrations and actions. Anti-Semitism employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits. Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life include the distortion or denial of the Holocaust with the intention of hurting Jews around the world and the State of Israel.

Indeed, many Jews experience an inability to express themselves in public as Jews without fearing verbal or bodily harm. These experiences are supported by findings of research recently undertaken by respectable international NGOs and intergovernmental bodies such as the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (2013).

As heads of parliaments, we wish to make it clear that anti-Semitism, as well as other hate crimes, constitute problems for every society in which they are allowed to manifest. History teaches us that for evil to prevail over good, all that is needed is for decent people to remain indifferent, silent and complacent while the immoral and hateful few gain power. This is why it is imperative that parliaments, governments, international organizations and civil societies around the world adopt a ‘Zero-Tolerance’ policy towards these phenomena.

We believe this can be achieved through a threefold approach: education, legislation and enforcement of laws against hate crimes.

The Round Table recommends, therefore, the establishment of an inter-parliamentarian Working Group to draft legal proposals strengthening tolerance and combating various forms of hatred and incitement to hatred in the spirit of this Declaration.

The President of the European Parliament is invited to make a call for such a meeting.

Artistic Performance

Yellow Stars Concerto
Composer: Issac Schwartz

Yellow Stars’, or ‘Purim spiel’, is a seven-part concerto for orchestra. The Concerto was written in the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in a language of sound that is powerful, beautiful, comprehensible and touching. The Concerto is a lyrical hymn and a tribute to the courage, wisdom, dignity and sense of unity of the people who overcame their fear of death.

The Concerto was first performed in 1998 and the ‘Neva time’ Newspaper wrote this critique after the premiere: ‘We have not heard in the Philharmonic new music of such poignant sincerity and beauty.’

The work owes its genesis to Isaac Schwartz as it is a rendition in reflection upon his life during the War in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania. It is especially moving in the composer’s description of Purim – a ‘fun’ holiday that has become inhumane in deadly conditions. Schwartz’s work is dedicated jointly to Raoul Wallenberg and to Vladimir Spivakov.

Press About the Forum

Press Release

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