Speech by Miloš Zeman during the Closing Session

Mr President of the European Parliament,
Mr President of the European Jewish Congress,
ladies and gentlemen,

I fully agree with the statement by Dr Moshe Kantor, who said on a different occasion that the purpose of our meeting is not only, or even first of all, a remembrance of the past, but also a consideration of the future, the quest to find paths to prevent a repetition of the Holocaust. I, too, want to focus on this issue; however, I would like to make several retrospective comments.

The condemnation of the Holocaust is something on which we all agree. We all agree that we must not allow it to happen again. But I fear that we do not pay enough attention to the deep causes of the emergence of the Holocaust. And that we sometimes perceive them as insignificant. Let me mention three small examples. One of the most prominent Czech journalists, Ferdinand Peroutka, wrote an article in the prestigious magazine Přítomnost (‘The Presence’) entitled ‘Hitler is a Gentleman’. The same journalist wrote, after the Munich Agreement, ‘If we cannot sing with the angels, we must howl with the wolves.’ My beloved Winston Churchill wrote to Adolf Hitler in January 1939 that if Britain were hit by a catastrophe, he would wish it to be headed by a man with Hitler’s strong will. And, finally, Nobel Prize winner Knut Hamsun – you may have read his Hunger or Victoria – wrote an obituary of Adolf Hitler in May 1945.

What makes intellectuals fascinated by an absolutely atrocious doctrine? What makes Dr Jekyll turn into Mr Hyde? It is the effort to overcome one’s own frustration by ousting a minority, whatever it be, from society, and in this respect the Holocaust begins with the first park bench on which a Jew is forbidden to sit. A gas chamber is only the culmination, not the beginning of the Holocaust. And we must ask whether a relapse is possible, even one of bigger dimensions, which would not afflict six million Jews, but it would afflict the followers of a number of religions, atheists and even Muslims.

Because of this, I welcome the fact that moderate Arab countries have recently joined the war against the Islamic State. And this Islamic State, often underestimated, has a nature similar to that of the Nazi Germany of the early 1930s.

I believe that we are threatened with a super-holocaust, whose victims would be hundreds of millions of people. I would like to quote one of the Islamic State military commanders, who said: ‘We will kill one hundred, two hundred or five hundred million people; we don’t care.’ And this threat of killing – I am repeating this once again – concerned Muslims as well.

I do not know how many of you saw the envisaged map of the Islamic caliphate by 2020. This map includes half of Europe, half of Africa and a large part of Asia. You may tell me that a lunatic made this map, and you will be right. But Adolf Hitler also was a lunatic, yet his vision of an enslaved and Judenrein Europe was nearly fulfilled.

I want to propose something that many of you will consider naive, unfeasible or useless. Yesterday, I talked about the 200 dead children in Peshawar, and about 2,000 inhabitants of Nigeria who were murdered by the Boko Haram sect. And I could give more examples. We should have no illusions about international terrorism being only several poorly armed and trained groups. International terrorism is a worldwide, organized and expanding network, and one cannot fight international terrorism merely on the level of national states and merely by sometimes slightly hypocritical demonstrations and verbal protests.

If two British and two French divisions had reacted to the violation of the Treaty of Versailles during the occupation of the demilitarized zone in Rhineland in 1936 with military action, there would have been no Munich Agreement, no Holocaust and no World War II.

In order to prevent a super-holocaust and massive murdering of people today, we also need joint military action, an operation at an international level, held under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council; an operation, to whose international rapid reaction forces all permanent members of the Security Council should contribute, if possible; an operation that would eliminate the terrorist training camps as they spring up, that would not work with hopeless occupying of land, but use modern technologies such as drones; an operation in which the international community would unite against its arch enemy.

Ladies and gentlemen, some proposals are said to undergo three stages. In the first stage, they are labelled nonsense; in the second phase, they may be considered; and finally, in the third stage, some of these proposals are taken for granted. This had been the well-known dispute between the heliocentric and geocentric models, but I could of course name further examples.

We still lack courage and we still give in to what was called appeasement in the 1930s. We still believe that the terrorist movements can be educated. Yes, Hitler educated us with gas chambers, and this is why I fear that before we start seriously considering such an international rapid reaction force, a number of terrorist attacks still have to occur for the public to realize that one cannot negotiate with terrorists, that terrorists must be fought, and that terrorists cannot be fought only with surface legislative changes, but with armed forces, as it might have been in Rhineland in 1936.

Thank you for your attention.