27 January 2011
The president of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), Ronald S. Lauder, has accompanied Germany's President Christian Wulff on his visit to the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. “On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish community and the survivors of the Shoah welcome the fact that President Wulff – who has only been in office for a few months and has already been to Israel – is visibly giving the issue of the Holocaust remembrance such a high political priority. Clearly, Germany’s political leaders have learnt the lessons of the past, but much remains to be done throughout Europe to keep the memory of the darkest chapter in history alive, in order to prevent a future Holocaust,” Lauder said ahead of the ceremonies in Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Wulff ‘s official delegation also comprised several Holocaust survivors (among them WJC Vice-President Charlotte Knobloch), the head of Germany’s Jewish community Dieter Graumann, the president of the Sinti and Roma community in Germany Romani Rose, and members of parliament (picture below: Wulff speaking with Jewish leaders and survivors on the presidential plane). Together with his Polish counterpart, President Bronislaw Komorowski, Wulff visited the International Youth Meeting Center at Auschwitz where both men discussed with young people and survivors. "Since World War II, across the globe there has not been a single day without war. We continue to witness massacres and genocide on an ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic basis," he said, adding: "This is an appeal to youth to take responsibility for what is happening. Indifference is the worst threat to democracy and liberty.
Since 2006, 27 January is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this occasion, Lauder declared: “Auschwitz is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world. Auschwitz is where the systematic annihilation of European Jewry was refined and perfected. It is where four gas chambers and four crematoria annihilated more than a million Jews. It is the place where the notorious SS ‘doctor’ Josef Mengele conducted cruel medical experiments on people. It is also the place where thousands upon thousands of Poles, Roma and Sinti and Soviet prisoners of war were brutally murdered alongside the Jewish victims.
“We owe it to all of them, and to the survivors, to make sure that today’s anti-Semites and hatemongers – those who want to destroy the Jewish people and its only refugee, the Jewish nation state Israel – will not get another go at it. In many countries, it has become fashionable in certain intellectual quarters to liken Israel’s defensive actions against attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas to those of the Nazis. It seems to be chic to hold Israel to a higher standard than any other country in the world and to blame the Jews again for everything that goes wrong. And yet: remembering the failures and atrocities of the past should have consequences for our actions today, and one of them is to protect Israel,” the WJC president said.
Wulff became the first German head of state ever to speak during the official remembrance ceremony at Birkenau, where most of the victims died in huge gas chambers. He declared: "Since World War II, across the globe there has not been a single day without war. We continue to witness massacres and genocide on an ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic basis. This is an appeal to youth to take responsibility for what is happening. Indifference is the worst threat to democracy and liberty." He said Germany had an "eternal" obligation to remember the Shoah.
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