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International Day of Commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust – 27 January 2021

Message by Mr Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

Every year, on 27 January, we gather to pay tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

To demonstrate our belief in, and stand united around our shared fundamental values. To remember the millions of victims who were murdered during the Holocaust. Murdered because they were Jews. Because they were Roma and Sinti. Because they were Slavs. Because they were homosexuals. Because they had disabilities. All the victims.

We honor their memory.

What happened behind the walls of Auschwitz-Birkenau, of Treblinka and the other camps or under the bullets of the Einsatzgruppen does not only concern the families of the victims and their descendants.

It concerns us all. Because it is an attack and a violation of human dignity which stands at the heart of human rights.

An attempt to dehumanize victims and justify the atrocities committed. And we have both the duty and obligation to stand up to hatred, crimes, atrocities. To remember so we never forget and never again allow that this very dark chapter of the history of humankind be repeated.

We also pay tribute to those who had the courage to disobey, those who showed human kindness and solidarity when hope seemed gone. To those who provided shelter, warmth and safety. Those who risked their lives for fellow human beings. Those who chose light over darkness. Those who showed us there is hope and human kindness.

Remembrance is a duty. A duty that we owe to the likes of Simon Gronowski, the 89 years-old survivor of the Holocaust who still makes the rounds of school classrooms to make sure that the young generations are aware of the Holocaust sufferings and horrors.

Today, more than ever before, we should make sure that remembrance lives beyond the living memory.

And that is why I welcome the ongoing work towards a Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to member States on “Passing on remembrance of the Holocaust and preventing crimes against humanity”. I would also like to recall the Resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly in 2016 on the “Renewed commitment in the fight against antisemitism in Europe”, which underlines the essential link between teaching about the Holocaust and the fight against antisemitism. Our Assembly will continue its work on combating antisemitism.

At a time when antisemitism and attacks against the memory of the Holocaust, propagated by fake information and largely relayed on social media, persist in Europe and beyond, it is more than ever necessary to keep the memory of Holocaust alive.

The memory of the Holocaust is a fundamental cement of our collective European consciousness.

It is the foundation of our will to live together.

And it is our common duty to ensure that such atrocities never happen again.