"The history of the Shoah was built with the memory of the survivors. But just as the 20th century saw the annihilation of our relatives and friends, the beginning of the 21st century will see the disappearance of the last eyewitnesses. Soon the generation that was not meant to survive will be completely extinguished. The time will also come when those who interviewed us in person will also disappear. Books will then be the only repositories of our memories. The era of witnesses is coming to an end. What effect will this have on the commemoration and transmission of the Shoah to the younger generations?”
Twenty years after they were spoken in the hemicycle of the Palais de l'Europe, the words of Holocaust survivor Simone Veil resounded in the same chamber as part of an event organised by PACE and the Permanent Representation of France to the Council of Europe to commemorate the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
In a message addressed to the participants, the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, stressed that "we bear a responsibility towards history but also towards the future: to ensure that memory is passed on". This work of remembrance and humanism is owed in particular to the younger generations “so that the memory of the Shoah is never forgotten, so that the atrocity of our history is never repeated, so that no young European can ever ignore it. To ignore it is to take the risk of letting some people bring back the rhetoric of the worst, to let the bad times return.”
Two survivors of the Shoah, Eva Clarke from the United Kingdom and Liliana Segre from Italy, gave speeches recounting their painful memories, while George Mayer, President of the 'Convoy 77' Association, presented the work of a project which reconstructs, through local research carried out by pupils from different European schools, the past of one of the 1310 Jewish deportees of the last large convoy which left Drancy for Auschwitz-Birkenau on 31 July 1944.
The ceremony was moderated by PACE President Tiny Kox. Also attended Jean-Michel Blanquer, French Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports, and Patrizio Bianchi, Italian Minister of Education, as well as Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
The ceremony was closed by the speeches of the five Presidents of the political groups of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and by a musical intervention - Wiegala, by Ilse Weber (1903-1944), composed in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, played in the hemicycle by the violinist Gaspard Perrotte.
Following this event, the Assembly opened the debate on the Observatory on History Teaching in Europe, based on the report presented by Bertrand Bouyx (France, ALDE).