On Holocaust Remembrance Day we remember the systematic attempt by the Nazi regime and its allies to exterminate the Jewish people and other groups – based on their ethnicity, on their beliefs or on sexual orientations, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
“The European Union has always been and stays engaged against any form of antisemitism, including attempts to condone, justify or trivialise the Holocaust,” Mogherini said.
In a statement to commemorate the Holocaust, Mogherini quoted an Italian Senator for life and Holocaust survivor, Liliana Segre, who recently said that the memory of the Shoah must help today’s Europeans “to reject the temptation of indifference towards the injustice that surrounds us, to remain vigilant, and to be more aware of everyone’s responsibility towards the other.”
The Holocaust was a turning point in history, which prompted the world to say ‘never again’.
“The modern project of European integration was born as a response to World War II and the Shoah,” Mogherini said.
“The European Union was built primarily on the decision to say ‘never again’. We recognised that our continent’s diversity is what makes us strong, and preserving diversity became a fundamental goal of our Union – including in our foreign policy.”
“Antisemitism – as well as all forms of racism – is an attack against the very foundations of our European Union: it is an attack against all of us,” Mogherini said.
Rejecting any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, the United Nations General Assembly in 2005 adopted a resolution by consensus condemning all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, whenever they occur.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, in an address early Saturday morning to the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony held annually at New York City’s historic Park East Synagogue, said: “Our urgent challenge today is to heed the lessons of a period when human dignity was cast aside for a racial ideology”.
He said that the previous time time he addressed the event had been just four days after a man carrying “weapons of war” stormed into a synagogue on Shabbat in Pittsburgh shouting “all Jews must die”.
“When the bullets stopped, 11 people lay dead. Brothers. Husbands and wives. A 97 year-old woman. All gunned down in prayer. And targeted, it also appears at least in part, for performing a mitzvah – living their faith and welcoming the stranger – new immigrants to the Pittsburgh area.”
“It was a barbaric assault – the worst antisemitic attack in the history of the United States. In our sorrow, we joined hands here in this pulpit,” he said, adding that many faiths had been represented, Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, including the top leadership of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, all declaring their utter opposition to hatred of any kind.
“I am afraid, however, that in the months since Pittsburgh we have had more reasons for profound concern,” Guterres said, noting that last month, headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg were defaced with swastikas; this month, rocks were thrown through the windows of the central synagogue in Sofia; and for some time now, antisemitic attacks in the United States and Europe have been on the rise.
Statistics and polls paint a deeply worrying picture, he said, explaining that antisemitic incidents in the United States increased by 57 per cent in 2017. One European poll reported last year that 28 per cent of Jews had experienced some form of harassment for being Jewish. Another revealed the strong persistence of classic antisemitic motifs.
“The old antisemitism is back – and getting worse,” said the UN chief, warning that Nazi symbols and slogans remain widespread, as anti-hate organizations track hundreds of neo-Nazi, pro-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
“And as we know all too well, where there is hatred of Jews, hatred of others is also near at hand,” he said, noting that indeed, the world was witnessing a disturbing increase in other forms of bigotry: attacks on Muslims were on the rise; intolerance was spreading at lightning speed across the internet and social media; and hate groups were using social media to link up with like-minded bigots across borders.
“Hate is moving into the mainstream – as major political parties incorporating ideas from the fringes and parties once rightly considered pariahs are gaining influence,” he said, adding: “We should not exaggerate the comparisons to the 1930s, but equally we should not ignore the similarities.”