Speech by EJC President Moshe Kantor at the International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorative event at the European Parliament
Brussels, January 24, 2018
Dear First Vice-President Mrs.McGuinness,
My dear friend Yuli Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset,
Members of the European Parliament,
Distinguished Representatives of the European institutions,
Leaders and representatives of the Jewish communities of Europe,
And especially, I would like to greet and to thank the survivors who honour us with their presence.
Thank you very much, First Vice President, for your moving address and for your deep commitment to honouring the memory of the Shoah.
This is a historical moment for Jewish communities. I would like to thank the honourable members of the Conference of Presidents for their decision to make this ceremony an official event of the European Parliament.
January is a tragic month in the history of European Jews. Eighty-five years ago, the Nazis and their brutal anti-Semites came to power in Germany in a way that was formally democratic. In 1942, they adopted a plan for “the final solution to the Jewish question” – a death penalty for nearly 10 million Germans and 50 million victims around the world. During the four years of its implementation, 60% of Europe’s Jewish population was killed, 6 million peaceful Jewish people.
Only now, 73 years after the liberation of concentration and death camps, the Jewish population in the world has reached its pre-war number. However, in Europe, we are six times less than before World War II.
On the 27th of January 1945, the Red Army liberated the 3,000 prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, who were alive, from the one million who died there. Among the survivors was Prof. Radil who is with us today, and we look forward to his testimony That date was declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day. It has not lost its relevance.
While personal memory is short, our political memory and the lessons that the political class of Europe draws from the Holocaust must remain.
Are our education systems today doing enough to educate young Europeans about where intolerance can lead?
Is the antisemitism that led to the Shoah still unacceptable in political discourse, or in the media, or around the dinner table in polite European society?
Is discrimination of Roma, Homosexuals, handicapped people and political dissidents a thing of the past?
Are individual Jews, or Jewish communities, or the Jewish state free from hatred and intolerance?
Not at all.
In 2017, the number of antisemitic incidents escalated in the UK, France, Germany and Sweden.
Because of the constant threat, synagogues and Jewish community centers in many European countries have been put under 24-hour police and military protection.
Hard power in Europe was activated. It is needed, but it is a shameful fact.
Less than a month ago, synagogues in Malmo and other Sweden cities were firebombed because of the absurd belief that European Jews are to be blamed for a diplomatic statement from a non-Jew thousands of miles away telling the self-evident truth that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Following the recent attacks in Sweden, we were honoured to welcome the Prime Minister of Sweden, Mr. Stefan Löfven at European Jewish Congress office in Brussels several weeks ago to talk about it.
He said that attacks on Jewish individuals and institutions cannot be justified and are unacceptable in any context.
The European Union urgently needs to demonstrate to its citizens that it has the means to stand up for pluralism and the rule of law.
What was previously taboo has become the norm again in Europe: Racist and antisemitic parties filling seats in our parliaments and governments, conspiracy theories about Jewish power and influence, scapegoating of Jews from far Right to far Left.
We welcome that this house took a very important step when it passed its first Resolution solely devoted to the fight against antisemitism last June.
Through this Resolution, which was adopted with a large majority across the political spectrum, the European Parliament declared that all kinds of violence against European Jews are incompatible with the values of the EU and stated its commitment to combatting antisemitism, to promote Holocaust education, and to ensure that Jews can live as safely as all other European citizens.
In terms of security, we are doing our part, but we cannot do it alone. Therefore, we need the support of the EU Member States, who have the responsibility to ensure the security of all their citizens.
In the last 70 years, experts have learned how to brilliantly analyse the dynamics of antisemitism in all spheres and its manifestations.
Numerous reports on antisemitic incidents in different countries are being published, and this work is useful and important.
But one thing is very strange. There is much less enthusiasm in elaborating practical solutions to fight this evil effectively on the ground, because in this case synthesis is much more difficult than analysis.
Jews of Europe will be finally forced to find a safer place, after Egypt, Rome and Germany the entire Europe will be lost by losing the oldest most reliable, active and law-abiding minority.
Hard power like in Europe today cannot provide the long-term security. Only together with soft power of any society is able to trigger an irrevocable process of security legislation. But Europe is so far today from this understanding.
How many Jewish and non-Jewish victims do you need to start doing something against offensive elements produced by supportive environment? And conservative Europe replies: we do not know these limits. This is the greatest mistake of Europe.
Islamists, ultra-rights and ultra-lefts, all political extremists should be stopped and strongly punished on the level of words but not on the level of actions.
Therefore, I’m pleased to announce a start-up of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation to create an institution, which will bring together a panel of international experts including top historians and philosophers.
They will work towards elaborating general guidelines on the Secure Tolerance Concept.
We all desperately need a new European ideology to serve as a foundation for new European and national legislation.