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Speech by Jerzy Buzek at the ceremony commemorating 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the World War II

Westerplatte (Poland) -
01/09/2009
Westerplatte (Poland), 01/09/1939
Westerplatte (Poland), 01/09/1939

Mr President,
Prime Minister of the Polish Republic,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The attack on Poland which took place on 1 September 1939 marked the beginning of the nightmare which engulfed Europe and the world. The Westerplatte is a symbolic place. A handful of troops took a heroic stand against fascism and fought  for the freedom and honour of Europe. Here, for the first time, fascism met with armed resistance. Here, the fight against fascism continued from the first to the last day of the war.

Today, as President of the European Parliament, I want to state clearly:

We shall not forget. And we must not allow ourselves to forget. Our memories of history cannot be filed away in some dusty archive. For these are important and tragic memories. The remembrance of 60 million victims. Let the suffering that has been endured and the graveyards scattered across the globe serve as a shared memory for us and stand as a warning to all leaders and to future generations.

These memories are the foundations on which we are building the future.

The Second World War ended in May 1945. Fascism lay in ruins. Yet the great persecutions of the nations of Europe did not end here. Only one half of the continent could breathe freely. Still needed was the courage of the Berliners in 1953. The heroism of Budapest and Poznan in 1956. The uprisings in Prague and Bratislava in 1968 and the Baltic uprising of 1970. And finally the Solidarity uprising, which by now was irresistible, helping to bring renewal and change in the Soviet Union.

In 2008 the European Parliament commemorated the victims of the two great totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and proclaimed 23 August - the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact - as a European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism.

The Members of the European Parliament recognised that:
'The mass deportations, murders and enslavements committed in the context of the acts of aggression by Stalinism and Nazism fall into the category of war crimes and crimes against humanity'.

This view is confirmed by the fact that twenty years ago the then Soviet authorities condemned the Pact.

It was this terrible experience of war which led the founding fathers to establish a united Europe. It was not by chance that the first step was the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community. Joint control over coal, which was vital to the production of energy, was intended to help prevent further wars. When proposing the founding of the Community, Robert Schuman declared that: 'the solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war (...) becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible'.

Over the many years since that first Community was established, we have been knocking down the walls left behind by the Second World War. We cannot now allow them ever to be raised again, through exploitation of energy resources or manipulation of historical facts.

I therefore wish to remind you of the words of the Polish and German Episcopates: 'Only truth can set us free. Truth which adds nothing and omits nothing. Truth which leaves nothing unsaid'.

Today, we pay homage together to the past. Yet together we are also responsible for the future, responsible to those young people now in their twenties, who know of the war only from textbooks.

Out of respect for those who died for our freedom, we must go further, following in the footsteps of Robert Schuman and strengthening our European solidarity. We can lay the foundations for solidarity only by taking firm measures, in order to build a common platform for further economic development. We must be firm and constant in our support for democracy and human rights. The European Union is of immense value, but in a globalised world it needs reliable partners. We need to cooperate with Russia and the United States. The fact that we are here together at the Westerplatte is also of great value.

We have a duty to ensure that our nations are truly reconciled. Peace and freedom cannot be taken for granted for ever. And so, to those who fought for freedom - those who gave their lives and those who survived - I want to say thank you. We Europeans will remember. We will build a Europe worthy of your sacrifice.