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Debates
Wednesday, 26 January 2005 - Brussels OJ edition

Anti-Semitism and racism
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  President. – The next item is the oral question (O-0089/2004 – B6-0003/2005) by Mr Schulz and Mr Ford, on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, to the Council, concerning the commemoration of Auschwitz, and the oral question (O-0090/2004 – B6-0004/2005) by Mr Schulz and Mr Ford, on behalf of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, to the Commission, concerning the commemoration of Auschwitz.

 
  
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  Schulz (PSE). (DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, today finds us discussing a resolution on a day that weighs heavily upon us, the day of remembrance to be held in Auschwitz tomorrow, recalling a crime that is associated with that place and unique in human history. Today’s debate, then, must be conducted with all the restraint that befits it.

Not only am I a Member of the European Parliament and Chairman of a multinational group within it, but I am also a representative from the Federal Republic of Germany and a German; speaking as I do this evening in this capacity – by which I mean both my role and my nationality – on the subject of Auschwitz and a resolution on the Holocaust, I am, of course, also speaking as a citizen of Germany, a nation and country with which Auschwitz is inseparably linked.

Auschwitz represents the moral nadir in my country’s history. The concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was built by Germans, by criminals with whom I share a nationality, by people who defiled my country’s honour in a way unequalled by anyone before or since. For that reason, a German can never be completely objective when speaking about this subject. Every generation – my own included – inherits what its predecessors left behind them. Auschwitz is part of the heritage with which we modern Germans have had to live.

So it is not only in my capacity as Chairman of this group that I affirm that we Germans have a particular responsibility when it comes to combating anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, fascism, contempt for humanity, terrorism and murder.

Like many other Members of this House, I will be able, tomorrow, and as Chairman of my group, to be able to join Mr Borrell at the ceremony of remembrance at Auschwitz, at which the President of the Federal Republic of Germany will also be present. That it is possible, 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, for Germans to join there with others in remembering that event, that it is possible for a German to go there as chairman of a multinational parliamentary group and, together with his counterparts from other countries – Russia, Poland, Israel, France and Italy, among many others – to spend time there in reflection, to remember the victims and thus to restore to them a little of their dignity, is something that we owe to the European Union. It is the European Union that has made it possible for us Germans to return, with heads held high, to the democratic family of peoples, in which we, the Germans of today, make our contribution to democracy, to human dignity and to the fight against racism and xenophobia.

For that reason, my group endorses this resolution, and those of us who are German – I believe this to be true of all the other groups as well – stand by what it says.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Schmit, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, as the honourable Member Mr Schultz has mentioned, a large number of Heads of State, representatives from this Parliament and other parliaments will gather tomorrow in Auschwitz, along with survivors of that hell, to commemorate the liberation of the extermination camp sixty years ago.

As representatives of a new Europe, they are fulfilling the duty to remember and to pass on the message, which is today more necessary than ever. The Presidency thanks the two Members for providing us with a moment of reflection and recollection through this question, here in Parliament, which, in 1979, following its first direct elections, elected an Auschwitz survivor, Mrs Simone Veil, as its President, and I pay tribute to her for her courage as President of this House.

Sixty years – that is less than the life of a human being. This is an opportunity to give a voice to those people, the few survivors, who carry the scars of that incalculable horror, which is unspeakable and yet must be spoken about loudly and clearly today. The Shoah will always remain a break, a fracture, in European history, as you so rightly said. Furthermore, as the former Bundestag President, Mrs Rita Süssmuth, said, the Shoah has no parallel. We appreciate that 20th century history is pockmarked with genocides, but the nature of the Shoah is specific and unique. It is the very negation of our civilisation, of our spiritual and ethical values, the negation of the humanism that Europe created.

Auschwitz does not solely belong to history, a history that is unsustainable. Auschwitz must remain a living, painful reality, which will encourage current and future generations to gain a better understanding, to reject any ideology based on hate and exclusion, and to put the notion of ‘never again’ into practice on a daily basis. The obligation to remember, essential though it may be, is not enough. Of course we need to remind ourselves about what happened, but there must also be commitment and action. Anti-Semitism has not gone away. According to the Vienna monitoring centre, anti-Semitism is in fact on the rise in our societies, along with racism of all kinds.

The revisionists and the deniers, all those who try to water down the unique nature of the Shoah, all those who put forward pretexts in establishing unacceptable links must be combated. This is a crime against the truth, to borrow the phrase coined by President Chirac, and those responsible must be hunted down in a Europe based on ethical values and respect for human rights; a Europe based henceforth on the Charter of Fundamental Rights incorporated into the Constitution and resoundingly adopted by Parliament. It is also a crime against the memory of all of those who suffered, in particular the tens, hundreds of thousands of children whose lives were destroyed in the most abject way, children whose sad stares we have seen in photographs. Let their terrified stares remain etched on our consciences and exhort us to pursue a determined and committed fight against forgetting and, worse, against complete denial of the crime.

Mr President, the defence of human rights – starting with all those who have been subjected to attacks on their dignity as part of the current wave of anti-Semitism and racism – is one of the cornerstones of European Union policy. To this end, the Council and the other institutions are working closely with international organisations such as the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations in the fight against what is a genuine scourge.

The Council has welcomed the initiatives taken by the OSCE, such as the adoption of the Berlin and Brussels declarations condemning all manifestations of anti-Semitism and all other acts of intolerance. During the ministerial-level meeting of the OSCE in Sofia, the posts of personal OSCE representatives for combating anti-Semitism, racism and islamophobia were created. This should help to reinforce the work of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, which is the OSCE’s office in Warsaw responsible for monitoring instances of anti-Semitism and other examples of intolerance. During the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly, a resolution explicitly condemning all forms of anti-Semitism was adopted on the initiative of the EU. In New York, on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2004, the Union pointed out the importance of education, an essential prerequisite to fostering the emergence of a culture of respect and tolerance that is consistent with safeguarding fundamental rights. The creation of a European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia is in line with the desire on the part of the Council, and the Union as a whole, to have at its disposal the tools needed to combat the various forms of intolerance.

I have indeed read the paragraph on history books and the teaching of history that must be promoted at European level, and memory work with young people is a European initiative that must be supported, and the Presidency will ensure that this happens.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. Mr President, the Commission is fully aware that the fight against racism and xenophobia is not over when faced with a resurgence of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and openly racist events. This resurgence is a source of great concern for all of us.

On numerous occasions the Union’s institutions have reaffirmed their commitment to defending human rights and have condemned all forms of intolerance, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, which are direct violations of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. These are the principles upon which the European Union is founded and which are common to the Member States.

The Commission is tackling racism, xenophobia, racial and religious discrimination across a wide range of programmes and initiatives, from anti-discrimination, justice and human rights policies to education and research programmes. The Commission intends to continue and to reinforce its efforts in the fight against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. In particular, the Commission has repeatedly called on the Member States and the Council to adopt the framework decision on the fight against racism and xenophobia, which it proposed in November 2001. This proposal would require Member States to ensure that racist and xenophobic behaviour can be punished, and that there would be approximately the same criminal penalties across the EU. This proposal would also improve judicial cooperation between Member States, thus making it easier to bring the perpetrators to justice. In the Commission’s view, the adoption of this text would offer Europe the legal framework it needs to fight efficiently against the scourge of racism and anti-Semitism. We hope, in full agreement with the Luxembourg presidency, to resume talks on this proposal in the coming weeks.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the Commission has recently launched its annual call for proposals for the commemoration of victims of concentration camps. This initiative is aimed at raising awareness, particularly among the younger generation, of the atrocities that were carried out in these camps.

 
  
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  Klamt (PPE-DE), on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner Frattini, members of the Council, over 50 years ago, the thought of peace for the people of a continent wrecked by two world wars was the one thing motivating the founding fathers of this European Union of ours – men such as Schuman, Monnet and Adenauer, and I wish they could be present in this House at this moment today, when Members from 25 Member States remember those liberated 60 years ago from the German Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Today, we commemorate all the Jews, Roma, homosexuals, Poles and people of other nationalities who were murdered there and in other camps.

Speaking here today as a German Member of this House, I am well aware of the deeds committed by Germans in the name of my people over 60 years ago. I face up to the responsibility that devolves upon my people and my generation as a result of them. Our joining together today to remember the suffering, our joining together in calling for remembrance – not only of the concentration and extermination camps, but also of the crimes committed in them – that alone can serve as a warning to future generations that genocide has its roots in contempt for others, in hatred, anti-Semitism, racism and totalitarianism.

We, the representatives of the citizens of this united European Union, are united in condemning every kind of intolerance and incitement to racial hatred, particularly all anti-Semitic acts and manifestations and all acts of violence motivated by hatred or intolerance for other religions or races. We likewise condemn attacks on religious sites, places and shrines belonging to Jews, Christians, Muslims or other faith communities, as well as all acts of violence committed against minorities.

All of us, then, must work to promote cooperation and dialogue between the various groups in society, boldly and publicly denouncing intolerance, discrimination and racism. Neither today nor in the future must we forget our history or seek to shut the door on it. Our founding fathers faced up to the history that was theirs and is ours. They met together as a small band, with the aim of creating a Europe that would be peaceful, free, democratic and secure. Today it is for us, in greater numbers, to continue the work on this responsible task. Let us show ourselves worthy of it, capable of enabling this continent to grow through the twenty-first century in peace and diversity; for and with those who live now and will live in the future, and remembering those who did not live to see a peaceful Europe.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Ford (PSE), on behalf of the PSE Group. Mr President, today and tomorrow Parliament marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. In this House there has been some controversy regarding geography and the nationality of those responsible. The key players were German Nazis with their racial ideology that saw the Jews as an evil, inferior race that should be exterminated, on the basis of their deeply flawed and distorted eugenics. There are those, unfortunately, who espouse this sickening ideology still among us today.

The German Nazis were aided and abetted by those of all races and nations who actively colluded in this extermination and by those who said nothing and allowed evil to flourish. Yet no nation in Europe was entirely innocent or entirely guilty. In Britain only the Channel Islands were occupied by the Nazis, but Britons in authority there registered the Channel Islands’ Jews, stamped ‘J’ on their passports and arranged all too efficiently for their transport to Auschwitz, where without exception they were murdered. All this was after the British Government of the time refused some of the same Jews the right to flee for their lives to the UK mainland because they were considered enemy aliens. We also had the British Free Corps of dupes, deserters and fascists who fought alongside the Nazis on the Eastern Front.

However, this debate is not primarily about the past. It is about the future. Earlier this week I attended an event organised in London by the Anne Frank Trust, where 50 survivors of the Holocaust gave their testimonies. They were not demanding more and better history, they were not arguing about the nationality or the geography of their captors and their guards. Instead they were joined by survivors of Kosovo and Rwanda to demand ‘never again’. Unfortunately, the forgetting has started. A fellow MEP, Mr Le Pen, recently stated that the Nazi occupation of France was not particularly inhumane, despite the murder of 73 000 Jews in the Struthof concentration camp in France.

Prince Harry – hopefully – illustrated his woeful ignorance of history by finding it amusing to attend a fancy-dress party as a Nazi officer. The best memorial we can give here today, and in the vote tomorrow, is to reinforce the fight against anti-Semitism and racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia. The Commission, Commissioner Frattini in particular, and the Council should look at how they can best push forward the welcome framework directive against racism and xenophobia.

We need to consider the need for new legislation against race-hate crime and whether action should be taken at a European level to deal with the public display of Nazi insignia. We have been told on many occasions of the merits of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism, Xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Perhaps we need to look again at downgrading that monitoring centre by making it a much more general human rights observatory.

Finally, we should look at how we can educate at European level the younger generation about the horrors of the Nazi extermination of the Jewish race, about the Roma, the mentally ill and the Christian Democrat and Liberal, Socialist and Communist anti-fascists who died in the concentration camps.

(Applause)

 
  
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  Ludford (ALDE), on behalf of the ALDE Group. Mr President, I pay tribute to Simone Veil, former Liberal Group Leader and President of this Parliament. I am glad that it was at the initiative of the EU that the UN General Assembly this week for the first time commemorated the Holocaust. My colleague Mr Geremek was there representing Poland, and, as he said, it was the Auschwitz camp built by Hitler’s Germany in occupied Poland that came to symbolise Nazi crimes. Those who forget their own history are condemned to repeat it; we have an urgent need to confront anti-Semitism and racial and religious prejudice 60 years on.

We must learn lessons from the Holocaust: the way Nazism took hold, the insidious appeal of its ideology, the co-option of many apparently respectable people. If we understand the way Hitler persuaded 20th-century Germans to sign up to his evil doctrines, to scapegoat, despise and dehumanise Jews, Roma, Eastern Europeans, homosexuals and others, then we will be better placed to combat those in 21st-century Europe who desecrate Jewish graves or beat up Jewish people, who run Roma out of town, who paint graffiti on mosques, or who just resent foreigners or immigrants.

We pay homage to all the victims of the Holocaust. There is no hierarchy of suffering, but if you permit I will just mention that as well as the genocide of the Jews, that of the Roma deserves full recognition.

It is not to diminish German responsibility to say that Nazism was and is a virus – anyone can catch it. The uncle of Queen Elizabeth II got a dose of it and her grandson was silly and uninformed enough to wear a fancy-dress costume complete with swastika to a party – apparently he was meant to be Rommel. Prince Harry’s ignorance was shocking; sadly, however, he is far from unique. That is why Holocaust education is essential in all school curricula. Most young British pupils have never heard of the Holocaust.

I appreciate the reasons for the ban on the swastika in Germany but I am not persuaded that an extension of it across the EU would be effective. It would be far better to revive the stalled discussions on an EU law making incitement to racial and religious hatred a criminal offence. The substance – not the symbols – of racism must be our primary target. The Luxembourg Justice Minister gave a commitment to the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs last week that he would restore this matter to the Council’s agenda. We will hold him to that. I believe we would have public opinion behind us. In the UK, six out of ten people support such a law.

I am glad we have the support of six groups for our resolution. All Europeans must be united in eradicating anti-Semitism and racism with determination.

Finally, it would be highly appropriate for the presidency to suggest to all governments that January 27 be made European Holocaust Memorial Day across the whole EU; it is already in some Member States, but not all. A written declaration in this Parliament five years ago made that suggestion, which is also supported by the World Jewish Congress. I would ask the presidency to stress that point in meetings with colleagues.

 
  
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  Kallenbach (Verts/ALE), on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Schmit, ladies and gentlemen, my group welcomes this resolution and hopes that it will be adopted by an overwhelming majority of this House, thereby sending the right message at the right time.

It must be seen as a call to action by every democratically minded person that there are those – both in Europe and elsewhere – who, even after 60 years, seek to minimise the barbaric acts committed under National Socialism or even to deny that they took place. It must goad us that people can draw up a party platform that involves classifying people according to their origin, religion, political tendency or sexual orientation, and still manage to get themselves elected. Even this House, alas, has not been without those who defend this approach, and so it is right and proper that it should take up a clear position and should unconditionally condemn all intolerance, all incitement of racial hatred and anti-Semitism in whatever shape or form. Again and again, we must nip these things in the bud.

Let us, together, press for educational material for young people, exchange programmes and visits to memorials to the victims of the Holocaust to become mandatory elements in the curricula of schools and universities. Perhaps the young people will be able to break down the walls in the minds of their grandparents, who are obviously unable to do this for themselves. Let us also discuss together how we may counter nationalist tendencies within this House. I would like to know for how much longer we will have to tolerate in silence these national flags, which are a deliberate expression of anti-European sentiment.

I would also like to bring to your attention something that happened last week, something that I find unacceptable and which affects me, for it happened in my own country. I refer to the behaviour of members of the parliament of the German Land of Saxony who belong to the National Democratic Party. These gentlemen, whom I regard as wolves in sheep’s clothing, refused to take part in a minute’s silence for the victims of Nazism. Even worse, they mocked the victims by accusing the Allies of being mass murderers, justifying this by reference to the air raids on Dresden in 1945, which they described as a ‘bomb holocaust’. That is a disgrace, and not just for Saxony or Germany.

I think this shows that both Saxony and Germany need a clear signal from Europe to the effect that such thinking is intolerable and deserves to be outlawed. Our Group therefore welcomes in particular the Council Presidency’s declared intention to restart the discussions on a framework resolution on combating racism and xenophobia – which had run into the sand – and to press for a Europe-wide ban on incitement to hatred.

I rejoiced to hear what you, Commissioner Frattini, and you, Mr Schmit, had to say, as you are evidently determined to make progress in this area.

If people are to be allowed to carry on making inflammatory speeches, they must not be given a safe platform under cover of indemnity. That is intolerable. I ask that we send a message tomorrow by observing a minute’s silence. I presume that the Bureau has made arrangements for one, but I regret that I cannot find it in the agenda.

 
  
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  Catania (GUE/NGL), on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (IT) Mr President, Mr Frattini, Mr Schmit, ladies and gentlemen, mercy was buried, the supreme values of humankind were buried and God died behind that iron gate. The symbols of Nazi savagery and the evil frenzy of persecution came to a head in the death camps and the most heinous crime in the history of the twentieth century was perpetrated there. Auschwitz represents both time and space, the geography and history of terror, murderous barbarity and homicidal madness, a cold-blooded torment of hatred beating down on the homeland of the Enlightenment and Positivism, in a Europe that had taken leave of its senses.

The madness of the concentration camps was generated by a ruthless rationality, a perverse idea of a world that had to eliminate critical cultures, make standardisation prevail and see diversity as the arch enemy. The Memorial Day cannot be a mere commemoration; it cannot confine itself to being a rhetorical remembrance of a monstrous event; it cannot just be summed up in the image of that soldier who discovered the horrors of Auschwitz. On that day the first stone was laid in building a Europe of peace, a political entity that should have destroyed the word ‘war’, roots and all.

We have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go in a Europe that has yet to speak out clearly and decisively against war and which is often struck dumb, while the man of our times is, in the words of a great poet, ‘still the one with the stone and the sling’; he continues to kill through exact science geared towards mass destruction. Remembrance is not enough, but we must use the same energy and unceasing determination to take a stand against the violent impulses of anti-Semitism, racism and Islamophobia. We must put up effective, official barriers to the spread of gender, sexual and ethnic discrimination.

The whole world as well as Europe is criss-crossed by contagious germs, which spread together with ideas about preventive and permanent war, in other words the dogma of the clash of civilisations and the new crusades against the infidels. Auschwitz is not just a place buried in the memory of the historiography of Nazism; Auschwitz is also fear and terror about what the future will bring.

 
  
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  Pęk (IND/DEM), on behalf of the IND/DEM Group (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot leave yet another attack on the Polish flag unanswered. I shall therefore give an honest and straightforward reply. Polish flags will hang here for as long as they hang above the President of the European Parliament, in accordance with European law.

No one can ever be in any doubt that the Holocaust, which was an unprecedented crime, should be condemned. On behalf of the Polish Members of this House, however, I should like to stress that our reaction to Parliament’s joint resolution on the Auschwitz concentration camp does not seem to have been properly understood by the Western media and public. There are therefore a few facts that I should like to draw to your attention.

References to so-called Polish concentration camps, such as Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek and Sobibor, have regularly appeared in the European press, and especially the English-language press, for many years. This is a hideous distortion of history, as the references ought to be to German concentration camps on German-occupied Polish territory, and not to Polish concentration camps. I should like to cite one single example that should make this clear. In France, 50 km from Strasbourg, the Germans built the Struthof concentration camp near the town of Schirmeck. This has never been referred to as the French concentration camp named Studtoff. It has always been called a German concentration camp on French territory. No one in their right mind would call the camp at Guantanamo a Cuban camp. The phrase used by Mr Schulz in the original version of the resolution, and I quote; ‘the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland’, came very close to suggesting that it might have been a Polish concentration camp. Our indignation and anger should therefore come as no surprise to you, given that such false portrayals of history are knowingly being presented.

Secondly, the joint compromise resolution refers only to Hitler’s Nazis as perpetrators. We would note at this point that Hitler was democratically elected by the vast majority of Germans. National Socialism was not forced on the Germans...

(The President cut off the speaker)

 
  
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  President. – The debate is clearly touching on topics that arouse strong emotions, but I ask all Members not to take advantage of that in order to infringe Parliament’s Rules of Procedure. In that respect, I would recall that, irrespective of any political views, the Bureau has examined the Rules of Procedure with the assistance of the Legal Service and has found that they contain nothing that might entail a ban on displaying flags on the seats in Parliament. Therefore, anyone who might like to put forward such a political view should first succeed in having the Rules amended. In view of that, I consider it pointless to debate this issue.

 
  
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  Muscardini (UEN), on behalf of the UEN Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is worrying to note that, despite the immense tragedy that affected the Jewish world and consequently the whole of humankind during the last century, there are still outbreaks of racist and anti-Semitic feeling spreading across Europe and elsewhere. In recent years, we have even seen prejudiced stances against Israel here in Parliament, which have certainly not helped either to achieve peace in the Middle East or to demonstrate that Europe is more able or prepared to make a common stand against terrorism and violence.

Knowledge of the massacres and tragedies that humankind has seen in recent history and the fight to prevent crimes of a similar nature from being repeated represent one of the founding values of the European Union, which was created from the awareness that peace, democracy and respect for others are principles that cannot be taken for granted but, instead, need to be strongly reaffirmed every day.

The fact that the presidents of the political groups in the European Parliament were present at the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – to which I paid tribute in 1999 together with the current Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Fini – takes on a special significance today because it represents the unity and will of the people of Europe not only to condemn the Holocaust but also to continue to fight the injustice, violence and discrimination that still exist in Europe and throughout the world.

Nonetheless, while reaffirming our condemnation of the past tragedy, we must show our concern at the news of anti-Semitic demonstrations in Russia and several countries in Europe. Those who still do not understand the need for an out-and-out commitment to combat anything that openly or surreptitiously justifies or even fails to condemn acts of intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism do not realise how ignorant they are of history or that they are creating for themselves an abyss from which there is no return.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR ONESTA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Claeys (NI). (NL) We are discussing a resolution on the commemoration of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and racism. We could have expected a text that pays tribute to the victims of the Holocaust with, in all serenity, an appeal never to forget this gruesome chapter in European history so that this can never be repeated. My party, the Vlaams Belang, could obviously have agreed to a resolution to that effect, together with 99% of the MEPs, but the resolution that is here before us for discussion has not been conceived in that spirit. The horrors of the Second World War have all been disgracefully piled onto one heap along with, and I quote, the rise of extremist and xenophobic parties and growing public acceptance of their views. Paragraph 5 of the resolution literally calls for the current fight against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism to be set against the background of the Shoah in education.

My party, the Vlaams Belang, is neither extremist nor xenophobic, but the standard politically correct terminology is very much against the current democratic political parties that make a stand for maintaining national identity. The traditional political groups simply want to demonise a number of successful and growing competitors at the expense of the Holocaust victims. This is not only an insult to millions of voters in Europe but, what is worse, these cheap political games trivialise the horrors of totalitarian regimes, including National Socialism. Another worrying aspect is the appeal for, and I quote, a ban on incitement to racial and religious hatred throughout the EU whilst guaranteeing legitimate free speech. According to the traditional groups, there is apparently such a thing as illegitimate free speech which must be stopped at all costs. They seem to forget that freedom of speech only exists if it also applies to political opponents. Aberrations of this kind come as no surprise, given the fact that this resolution was submitted by the Communist group.

 
  
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  Sonik (PPE-DE).   (PL) The Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp was liberated 60 years ago. Auschwitz was not the only death camp built by Hitler’s Third Reich on Polish territory it had conquered and occupied, but it was the largest death factory in human history. One and a half million people were exterminated in Auschwitz on an industrial scale, using mechanical means. One hundred and fifty thousand Poles were deported to Auschwitz, half of whom were killed. Fifteen thousand Russian prisoners of war were also killed in Auschwitz, and Czech, Belarussian, French, Slovenian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Dutch and even Chinese people died there. The prisoners even included 2000 Germans. The Roma were destined to a certain death, with 20 000 of them killed. The overwhelming majority of victims, however, were Jews, one million of whom were killed in Auschwitz. This figure included elderly people, young people, women and children. The sheer horror of the Holocaust lies not only in the enormous scale of the crime, but in the fact that all Jews, irrespective of who they were, what they believed, what they did or what country they came from – and even those who had not yet been born – were condemned to extermination by Hitler and the German Nazis.

The fact that the House has acknowledged how important it is to remember this crime is of great significance. Sixty years have passed since the liberation of Auschwitz. This is not just an arbitrary date, as ever fewer witnesses remain with us. Living memory is ending, and history is beginning. The duty to tell the whole truth about this tragedy rests with those of us who are alive, and who were fortunate enough to be born at a later date. We owe this to the millions who were exterminated.

The founding act of the International Education Centre about Auschwitz and the Holocaust will be read out tomorrow before the gates of Auschwitz. The Centre has been set up on the initiative of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, with the support of the International Auschwitz Council, whose director, Władysław Bartoszewski, was himself a prisoner in Auschwitz. He has said that, and I quote: ‘Soon our burden will be taken over by historians, scholars and teachers. This is why we turn to them and ask them to share the memory of the victims of Auschwitz and the Holocaust, to deepen understanding of the mechanisms of hatred and contempt, and to promote dialogue and cooperation to prevent such mechanisms from coming into play’. We politicians have a particular duty to ensure that we do not interpret historical facts to suit individual political interests. Even if there are noble motives for doing so, forgetting or distorting history will not help us to build lasting understanding or peace. The sturdiest foundation for the reconciliation of nations is humility before the historical truth, as this is the only way in which forgiveness can be achieved.

We cannot change the tragic nature of history, but it can at least act as a warning to the rest of the world. I respect the comments made today by Mr Schulz. Nonetheless, given that the Polish Members of this House and the European People’s Party support the adoption of a joint resolution tomorrow by this House, I would ask you, Mr Schulz, to agree to adopt a different position, so that you yourself and your party can vote in favour of what we originally wanted, namely a clear statement to the effect that the Nazis were German Nazis.

 
  
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  Roure (PSE). (FR) Mr President, the most notorious of the concentration camps set up by Hitler, Auschwitz, officially opened on 14 June 1940. It was intended at that time for Polish political prisoners whom the Nazis wished to treat with particular severity. At the head of the camp was a former common criminal who, in 1946, would boast of having exterminated three million people. As from 1942, he would send up to 6 000 victims per day to the gas chambers, mainly Jews from all corners of Europe.

As soon as they arrived, those who were too weak to work were picked out and eliminated. The others were exploited to the point of total exhaustion. During the summer of 1944, the Nazis resorted to large-scale executions to liquidate more Jews. Russian prisoners of war were also exterminated at Auschwitz, as were Roma, homosexuals, disabled people and anti-Fascist resistance fighters. It was Auschwitz too that went on to supply living subjects for experimentation. An extension of the camp, located at Birkenau, was specially designated for the extermination of the Jews. The crematoria burned more than 20 000 corpses per day. It was there that the majority of Jews brought from Western Europe and the Balkans were eliminated. This was how the majority of Western European Jews would disappear, in particular almost three million Polish Jews. With them was annihilated a whole universe of traditions and culture, now lost for ever.

In all cases, this genocide is fundamentally connected with anti-Semitism and, more broadly, with Nazi racism. In particular, the Hitlerian vision of the world was of crucial importance, founded as it was upon the obsession with racial purity. From the start, Hitler’s racism contained the seeds of genocide. Alongside the Jews, other peoples, such as the Roma and the Slavs, were exposed to the murderous effects of this racism. For Hitler, they all deserved to die.

It was in February 1940 that the deadly Zyclon B gas was tested on 250 Roma children, at which point the huge agony of hunger, cold, exhausting labour, diseases, brutality and pseudo-medical experiments began. A final 4 000 Roma were gassed and burned on 1 August 1944 in order to make way for further deportees.

Will there never be an end to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia? No doubt they will not disappear until all human families, faithful to their cultures and traditions, come together within a universal community. The Jews have suffered a lot and are still suffering. Minorities are often oppressed and suffer inordinately. To fight anti-Semitism and racism is not, therefore, to fight for the Jews or for minorities but to fight for humanity.

 
  
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  Lambert (Verts/ALE). Mr President, like many others this evening I welcome this resolution on this extremely important anniversary. As others have said, there is a risk that the memory of the realities of the horrors of what happened in the concentration and extermination camps will start to fade. It is also worth mentioning that later in the year we will also be remembering the effects of nuclear weaponry.

It is not just a question of thinking about these events in terms of remembrance or even of education. As the resolution says, we must look at them not simply as historical events, but as a very real and present danger, which I believe they are. When political movements are not just extremist, and not based solely on certainty, but are also based on some feeling of their own superiority or their desire to be superior, that is an extremely dangerous mix for all of us.

I, like others, welcome the moves by the Commission and the Luxembourg presidency to restart the negotiations on the draft framework decision on racism and xenophobia, because this is an issue that needs a political response.

I am very pleased that the resolution makes a point about the role of the media having a positive or a negative way of either engendering hatred or explaining difference in a positive way. When we look at the way in which some of the British media, for example, reported the plight of the Jews fleeing Hitler’s Germany and looking for sanctuary in the UK, we hear phrases like ‘we have enough’, ‘other people should be doing more’, ‘we should be sharing the burden’ as I suppose we would put it in modern parlance. A lot of that newspaper coverage was hostile: it vilified the Jews, and it actually treated them as sub-human. When we look at the way in which some of those same papers today have portrayed the Roma in the run-up to the accession of new Member States last year, and their remorseless targeting of asylum seekers, we know that those ideas have not gone away.

Politicians also have a very clear leadership responsibility to promote understanding and a respect for different religions and races. This does not mean avoiding the difficulties, but if we are serious when we say ‘never again’ to the horrors of the Holocaust, we as politicians must stand up for strong anti-discrimination policies and confront racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and faith-based hatred, rather than bending our policies before it.

This resolution shows that we believe it is possible to make a positive future and that we in this House have the privilege and the possibility as politicians to help shape that future in a positive, constructive way.

 
  
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  Schulz (PSE). (DE) Mr President, my statements have drawn a lot of responses from many Members of this House, and so I ask you to understand why I am asking for the floor on a point of order.

The reason why a number of Members of the House have problems with this document is that they feel that I, as one of the movers, do not want the words ‘German Nazis’ to appear in it. That is not the case; they were not present in the original text either. I would, though, like to say to Mr Sonik that, if these words were to enable us to offer the victims a worthy memorial tomorrow, I would recommend that my colleagues insert them, for we are talking about a concentration camp operated by German Nazis.

 
  
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  Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL). (EL) Mr President, sixty years ago tomorrow, the concentration camp in Auschwitz was liberated. On such days, we are called upon every year to honour the fights and the resistance of the millions of people whose every type of difference became a cause for their extermination. However, Auschwitz and Dachau must not remain a dead chapter in our history; on the contrary, they should, especially in our times, continue to remind us of the extent of the catastrophe which man alone can bring about, when he is carried away by ideological fanaticism, racism and xenophobia.

We owe it to those who were sacrificed and to those who will rise up and fight against all forms of expansionist policy and plans of imposition and world domination to keep this sad chapter in the history of mankind alive in our memory and minds. In paying homage today to all the victims of Nazism and of any other extremist racist movement, we need to demand a ban on all forms of Nazi and fascist symbols and to continue the fight, so that both these and those which follow them are removed once and for all from modern reality.

 
  
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  La Russa (UEN).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I refer to an amendment that I have tabled to the resolution. Today, Europe is laying the foundations to create a climate of greater peace and tolerance. Declaring 27 January Holocaust Memorial Day in order to encourage people to learn about it shows our clear determination to overcome and to fight all forms of intolerance and racism. It is a move to which I of course fully subscribe.

When we think of Holocaust Memorial Day, however, we cannot and must not fail to remember and similarly condemn other holocausts, which are perhaps less well known but certainly no less serious in terms of the crimes committed against humanity. I therefore confirm my full, wholehearted support for the document under discussion, which deplores any kind of racism or xenophobia and, in general, any form of persecution on ethnic or religious grounds, and likewise condemns those events that represent one of the greatest horrors in all the history of humankind: the Holocaust.

I believe it is only right that Parliament should recall that, together with the Jews, other peoples and ethnic minorities who have been the victims of genocide and persecution must also not be forgotten, as unfortunately often happens. In my amendment, therefore, I have asked that the resolution should also mention the Armenians and the Kurds, the Italians slaughtered by Marshal Tito in Istria, and the millions of innocent people, among them Jews, who were exterminated in the Soviet gulags certainly in numbers no less vast than those killed by the German Nazis, as our Polish fellow Members have quite rightly pointed out.

 
  
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  Czarnecki, Ryszard (NI).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, this is an important debate and an extremely important anniversary, upon which we are paying tribute to the millions of Jews, Poles and representatives of other nations who were killed in the German concentration camps. We must not forget that the flow of hatred they were swept away by cannot, unfortunately, be relegated to the past, as it continues to be a feature of modern-day life. Today we are faced with cases where lies are told and history is falsified, where the role of the concentration camps is belittled and their existence even denied, and where the Holocaust is minimised. We are also faced with cases where people talk about Polish, not German, concentration camps, which is particularly distressing given the large number of Polish victims of the Second World War. An example of this phenomenon can be found in the weekly supplement included this week with the Belgian newspaper le Soir. We should therefore fight for the historical truth and condemn any manifestation of anti-Semitism, as the latter is a moral disgrace for modern Europe and has been roundly condemned by the Polish Pope, John Paul II. It is an intellectual and moral embarrassment that we should still have to hear reports of its resurgence, particularly in Western Europe, but also in Eastern Europe. We should not quarrel over where this resurgence is taking place. The point is that it is happening. Wherever anti-Semitism surfaces, we should react decisively and consign it to the dustbin of history.

 
  
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  Gaubert (PPE-DE). (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, a sorrowful anniversary will be commemorated tomorrow everywhere in Europe: the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, a symbol of all the camps built by the Nazis with the sole aim of carrying out the planned extermination of 11 million Jews then living in Europe. More than half were reduced to ashes. At a time when their ashes are still not cold, a number of people have, again recently, attempted to deny or relativise absolute barbarity. Sadly, two of them are Members of this House.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a matter of honour for this Parliament to use this resolution against anti-Semitism – which, I hope, will be voted unanimously in favour of – to contribute to the fight against this scourge and also against all forms of xenophobia, racism and discrimination. It is a matter of honour for this Parliament to fight against all those who would falsify history. It is a matter of honour for this Parliament to pursue the politics of peace and unity that motivate us all by recommending that we never slacken our efforts in the unfailing service of education and tolerance and in teaching people about this black period of European and world history. At a time when, just about everywhere in Europe, violent anti-Semitism is resurfacing and various forms of intolerance are on the rise, we need to ask ourselves how we are to keep this memory alive in history when the surviving witnesses are no longer there. Our Parliament must thus encourage those Member States which have not yet done so to adopt legislative provisions along these lines, as a number of European countries have already done.

This House is in the process of building a better future for future generations, with more freedom, more democracy, more tolerance and more mutual respect. Today, we are helping to ensure that no one ever forgets what human folly was capable of bringing about. Our support for this resolution will be a clear signal to our peoples, to our children, to future generations and to all those who fight for peace and human brotherhood.

 
  
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  Pinior (PSE).   (PL) Members of the Council, ladies and gentlemen, today’s sitting of this House is a special one. It is taking place on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, and it is both a commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Soviet Army and a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

I come from Poland, a country that witnessed the extermination of European Jews and Roma and the deaths and suffering of others under the military occupation of Nazi Germany. It is also a country that lost a large number of its elite and around three million of its Jewish citizens in the concentration camps. The Nazi authorities built extermination camps on occupied territory in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Chelmno, and these camps were where the genocide of Jews was carried out. Auschwitz has become a symbol of this crime, which is unparalleled in the entire history of humanity. My generation grew up in the shadow of the Second World War, which had been so disastrous for Poland, and in the shadow of the genocide that accompanied this war.

Today I am speaking before the European Parliament, a symbol of an anti-fascist and anti-totalitarian Europe and of a Europe that has writ large the defence of human rights, as well as tolerance and democracy. The memory of the Holocaust must prompt us as Europeans, and also the European institutions, to take special duties upon ourselves as part of a global civilisation in the twenty-first century.

Members of the Council, we are constantly being reminded of the existence of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism in Europe. We have to deal with the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and of Jewish ritual objects, and with displays of intolerance towards the Jewish community. Jews are regularly deprived of their right to Europe’s heritage, despite the fact that in historical terms they were one of the first groups to settle on the European continent. We have to deal with xenophobia and with openly racist acts against emigrants, as well as with religious and moral intolerance and with aggression against sexual minorities.

Does the Council not believe it to be appropriate for the European Union to set about creating a special education programme that prepares young people to create a European society based on multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-faith principles?

Other tasks await the European Union in the field of external policy. Does the Council anticipate stepping up the EU’s political activity and economic involvement in the Middle East, in order to make the European Union a guarantor of peace and democracy in the region? The European Union’s future priorities should include development policy, aid for developing countries and humanitarian aid. The Union is also called upon to take measures to promote human rights and democratisation in various parts of the world. It needs to respond appropriately in regions where genocide, murder or violence could occur against a background of prejudice for reasons of nationalism, religion, race, social class or traditions. Is the Council aware of these challenges? Is it aware of what is expected of the Union on the threshold of a new century?

 
  
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  Borghezio (IND/DEM).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, we in the Lega Nord will vote for this resolution. Just now, however, we heard a speaker associate with the subject of the Holocaust nothing less than patriotism, nationalism and the movements that take their inspiration from them, to the extent that she even called for national flags to be removed from the seats in Parliament, flags that represent the healthy feeling of patriotism in which we still believe.

That demonstrates how it is possible to start from a reasonable premise but reach tyrannical conclusions that go against democracy. It is precisely for that reason that we are highly suspicious of this European directive, and we would remind the Commission representatives of the risk that it may be exploited for antidemocratic and illiberal purposes, as happened just now in this Chamber.

I have also heard Islamophobia mentioned a great deal throughout the debate. I think it would be appropriate to ask ourselves what it is that Jews in Europe and across the world fear today, seeing that synagogues and Jewish centres, at least in the Italian and European cities that I visit, are under virtual military guard 24 hours a day. Let us ask ourselves who really constitute a threat today, spreading racist propaganda on television and carrying out physical threats and attacks. The important UN Assembly has been mentioned, but we must ask ourselves which countries’ seats were left empty. Let us remember, then, the Islamic peril and Islamic anti-Semitic racism, which this Parliament should have felt a moral duty to condemn out of respect for the victims.

 
  
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  Roszkowski (UEN).   (PL) Mr President, when we are dealing with crimes as terrible as those which occurred in Auschwitz, we have a particular duty to offend no one when telling the truth, but to ensure that this historical warning continues to be heeded and viewed in the proper context and in proportion. Otherwise, we run the risk of relying on lies or even tragicomedy. The Auschwitz camp was built by Germany’s Nazi authorities on land they had occupied in Poland, a country that was attacked and divided up by the Third Reich and the USSR in September 1939. Although the camp’s first prisoners and victims were mainly Poles, it was later turned into an extermination camp for Jews so that the Third Reich could implement the ‘Final Solution’. As a result, over a million Jews were killed in Auschwitz, as well as around 75 000 Poles, around 20 000 Roma and tens of thousands of persons of other nationalities, including several dozen homosexuals. As has already been stated in this House, anti-Semitism was also prevalent in countries other than the Third Reich. The Nazi German state was, however, the only one to implement the plan to exterminate the Jews. Poles understand that contemporary Germans bear no responsibility for the crimes of their forefathers. They understand the Holocaust was an event that was unprecedented in history, and that the extermination of the Roma has often been sidelined. Yet what Poles do not understand, and what they will never agree to, is a belittling of their nation’s suffering during the Second World War. They will also never agree to the use of the phrases ‘Polish concentration camps’ or ‘death camps in Poland’. Political correctness on the issue of the Nazis’ nationality does not help to build the trust and reconciliation that Poles find particularly important. We should not be afraid to talk about these distressing facts as openly as Mr Fischer did during the recent debate at the UN, and as Mr Schulz did in this Chamber a short while ago. The life of every person is of equal worth, but when large numbers are at issue, placing the Jewish, Roma, homosexual and Polish victims on a par in a list borders on the absurd. Regardless of these painful considerations, however, the Union for Europe of the Nations Group believes that the memory of the enormity of the crimes committed in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp should be kept alive in order to ensure that this kind of genocide can never be repeated.

 
  
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  Kirkhope (PPE-DE). Mr President, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz is a moment of commemoration and reflection. The horror that greeted liberating forces in January 1945 is something that most of us have shared only through film footage and photographs. We cannot truly imagine the nature of the genocide that was perpetrated there and in the other death camps around Europe.

Auschwitz is a stain on humanity and a symbol of evil beyond anything we can comprehend. Those of us who have visited it are overwhelmed by its desolation. One can still feel and taste the evil that was carried out there: the gas chambers, the huts crammed with young and old, the railway tracks that bore the death trains, the watchtowers, the crematoria, the pathetic personal remains of those millions who perished so horribly. Walking through the gates of Auschwitz is truly to walk through the gates of hell.

Today we stand with Jewish people across Europe and the world. We think of those who perished, we thank God for those who were liberated and we honour those alive today who survived the horror, including some in my own constituency in Yorkshire and the Humber. The Holocaust must never be allowed to slip from our collective memory. Neither, however, can we forget all those who have perished in genocidal atrocities throughout the world since World War II. Rwanda and Cambodia are but two examples of modern-day genocide that stir our emotions.

Discrimination, prejudice and hatred continue to blight our world, and in this week of remembrance let us ensure that the failure of the world to prevent the Holocaust and Auschwitz serves as a warning to all of us who cherish liberty and freedom that we must never, ever forget.

 
  
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  Cashman (PSE). Mr President, as I stand here today I feel that, if I was living around Auschwitz 60 years ago, as a gay man I would have been rounded up, sent to the camp and I, probably, would not have survived. What we have to do here today is to separate the people from the groups – from the names we call them – because we are dealing with millions of individuals who died because they posed a threat to some ideology or because they were different.

In this House we talk about fundamental freedoms and fundamental rights, yet all around us in the world today racism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism still exist. Therefore, it does not matter what we say today; what matters is what we do. The Commission’s proposals will matter. It will matter whether it has the courage to bring forward non-discrimination on all the grounds of Article 13, and not just some. To do the latter would be to reinforce a hierarchy of oppression. We must all bear responsibility for what happened in the past – every nation, every country. But the difference is that we are either imprisoned by the past or we become guardians of the future to ensure that such inhumanities never occur again.

Remember the people with disabilities, the trade unionists, the anti-fascists, the homosexuals and the millions of others mentioned here tonight who died. We must be determined that such a scenario never occurs again.

Let me finish with what Pastor Niemöller brilliantly said: ‘When they came for the Jews, I was a not a Jew, so I did not speak out. When they came for the trade unionists, I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out. When they came for the queers, I was not a homosexual, so I did not speak out. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out’.

Remember and determine to change the future.

 
  
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  Záborská (PPE-DE). (SK) An Eldorado of death and suffering, a exultant journey of hatred and a place where evil was wedded to evil. This was how my father described his pain when he visited Auschwitz. His family had died there. When visiting the freshly painted gas chambers, he could see how carefully dressed evil can give rise to hatred and a desire for revenge. Peace is not simply the absence of war. It is a state of justice, freedom, faith and conscience. Following the liberation of Auschwitz, however, peace and democracy did not come to all of the continent of Europe. Totalitarian regimes persisted, although in a different form. The eastern half of Europe lost the capacity for self-determination. We were locked within the boundaries of an empire of evil, which attempted to destroy our religious traditions, our recall of history and the very roots of our culture. Many were imprisoned simply because they invoked the freedom of conscience and religious freedom. My father was one of them. What does Auschwitz tell us today? That the willingness to forgive is a personal and free attitude which does not need repeating. No international treaty can heal the sadness. Without forgiveness, there can be no reconciliation. States cannot be reconciled unless their citizens forgive one another. In this respect, propaganda comes to mind, because propaganda is used by all totalitarian regimes. It is used to defend the politics of the elite and to prohibit alternative views under threat of death. It is no accident that enlightened European statesmen have wished to create a bond of unity among the different countries. This was the result of their own freedom of conscience and religious conviction. They understood that the good of humanity prevails over the good of each nation. These statesmen did not confuse national, cultural and legal heritage with the surrender of political sovereignty. Today’s Europe is still seeking its own future and meaning. We are still waiting for our peace, justice, freedom of faith, conscience and thought. Auschwitz is part of the European Union. Auschwitz and Strasbourg are definitively linked and will always remind us of the failures in our history. Thank you.

 
  
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  Schapira (PSE). (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, there is a Yiddish saying, ‘Remember, and do not forget’. It is crucial for our fellow citizens to understand the uniqueness of the Holocaust, and we must be extremely vigilant faced with the resurgence of anti-Semitism. I am also a little surprised to see only the word ‘racism’ on the notice board, when the title of our colleague’s, Mr Schulz’s, oral question was in fact ‘Anti-Semitism and racism’. I am surprised that the title is not given in full.

The living memory of the generations of survivors will shortly die out. Hence, the need for the institutions to pass on the memory of the genocide to younger generations. I should like to submit a practical proposal to you. I suggest that the European Union require all schools to affix commemorative plaques to their walls, bearing the names of those former pupils who were deported and did not return. A ceremony in memory of these children could be organised on 27 January of each year. In the same way, I propose that plaques denouncing the collaboration that took place be placed outside police stations, law courts or regional administrative offices that issued deportation orders and whose officials were cowardly enough to allow the anti-Semitic barbarity to be perpetrated.

If we allow the horrors of the past to sink into oblivion, future generations will not understand the need to combat the questioning of universal values of tolerance and freedom.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Schapira, the Sessional Services point out to us that if the board only gives ‘racism’ as a title, it is solely for technical reasons. The title of our debate is indeed ‘Anti-Semitism and racism’.

 
  
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  Sumberg (PPE-DE). Mr President, ‘never forget’ and ‘never again’ are the two historic phrases that we have in mind today as we commemorate, in just a few hours’ time, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. ‘Never forget’ was the injunction to us from those remnants of European Jewry who survived the murder by the Nazis and their accomplices. Tomorrow the ceremonies to which I have referred will show that we have not, thank God, forgotten.

Can we be so sure, however, about the other injunction, ‘never again’? We see today the rising spectre of anti-Semitism in our continent and throughout the world. It sometimes takes a different form, but the ultra-nationalist, ultra-right who have always been anti-Semitic are sadly still there today in some of our countries: in Germany, in Russia, in France, and indeed, sadly, I have to accept that we also see it in my own country, Britain, which has the most honourable of records in fighting the Nazi tyranny and giving refuge to the persecuted. We see a new variant of the anti-Semitic virus in Islamic fundamentalism – not in Islam, as Islam has always been a friend to the Jewish people. Islamic fundamentalism is neither their friend, nor the friend of Western civilisation, nor the friend of any of our nations. We must ensure in the years to come that although we can have our differences about Middle East – and perhaps we should – those differences should never allow or permit verbal or physical violence against members of the Jewish communities of Europe.

I am here today because, thank God, my forebears left the shores of Europe over a century ago to find safety and security in Britain. That is why I am here. That memory is why I say that this Parliament of Europe, of all places, has a historic duty and responsibility to say ‘never forget’ and ‘never again’.

 
  
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  Beňová (PSE). (SK) Thank you very much, Mr President, ladies and gentlemen. It is an honour for me to speak here, even though the Chamber is now half empty and we are only saved by the presence of the interpreters. Please allow me to get personal for a while, because I have the feeling that everyone wishes to count themselves as victims, but we do not wish to point a finger at anyone in particular as being the culprit and I think that the blame needs to be spread out before us. The Slovak state was one of the first satellite states of the Nazi Reich from which Jews were deported to the death camps. The deportation of Slovak Jews formed part of the process known by the Nazis as the ‘Final Solution’ for the Jewish question in Europe. The Final Solution sounds just as dreadful today. The case of the Slovak state is important from a historical standpoint, since it was a trial country for testing the Nazi strategy with respect to the Jews for subsequent application in other countries, and not only in the field of deportation. In fact, of fatal historical significance. Eighty-nine thousand Jews were deported from the Slovak state. Just a short trip into the history of ideologically motivated murder. I cannot omit to mention that the Slovak state was headed by a Catholic priest. The death camps saw the murder of Jews, Roma, antifascists of all nationalities and many others condemned to an absurd and vicious death. Has history taught us anything? Do we realise that the Holocaust has adopted the role of a universal symbol for all evil, representing, as it does, the most extreme form of genocide? Do we know what preceded this atrocity? Was it a word, or a sentence, which triggered the whole murderous machinery of hatred and outrage? I should like to ask you a question, Commissioner and Minister. In your view, is the defamation of a nation, an ethnic group, a race or a creed a punishable offence in the democratic world? Does the freedom of expression, as one of the basic democratic values, reach its limit when it becomes an instrument of such defamation of a nation, an ethnic group, etc? Do not the modern Nazis paradoxically hide behind hard-won democratic values and freedoms and should we not put a stop to them before these extremists in brown jack-boots come out onto the streets under the shield of democratic principles? We await your answer, Sir. Thank you, Mr President.

 
  
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  Vincenzi (PSE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to call on Minister Schmit and Mr Frattini, whose speeches I found admirable, to assess the possibility of establishing a European initiative to coordinate and implement the work of many national, public and private institutions, foundations and research centres that operate to preserve the memory of what happened in the concentration camps and also the memory of the many cases of resistance against Nazism and Fascism which, for instance, led no less than 48 000 Italians to their deaths in the camps.

I propose that a European library should be set up to provide and to safeguard a recognisable, shared European identity. It should continuously translate and exchange all its material, especially that coming from countries that have recently joined the Union, about which we have a dearth of knowledge, and from all those preparing to join. I also see this as a way to build a future in which remembrance is viewed as an opportunity to strengthen a Europe founded on mutual respect among people, races and cultures.

 
  
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  Tabajdi (PSE). (HU) Every nation, every country, must perform its own national self-examination. Let us not forget the single, unrepeatable homicide, humanity’s biggest atrocity, the Shoah. We Hungarians must face the moral burden that at a time of crisis, we let German Nazis and Hungarian collaborators tear 550 000 Jewish fellow-countrymen from our nation, including the Hungarian poet and martyr, Miklós Radnóti, who describes the era in his poem ’Fragment’ as follows: ’I lived on this earth in an age / When man fell so low he killed with pleasure / And willingly, not merely under orders. / His life entangled, trapped, in wild obsession, / He trusted false gods, raving in delusion.

Several monuments have been erected, documentation centres have been opened, and much has been published on the subject in Europe, but the most important monument to the Shoah should be within the hearts of all European citizens. Facing history was not easy for Hungary, and even today it is still difficult. In Western Europe, national self-examination took place earlier and more thoroughly than in the ten new Member States. However, I can proudly report that we have designated a Holocaust Memorial Day, we have written coursebooks for students, and we finally opened the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Páva Street last spring. Moreover, although it came after a 60-year delay, the Hungarian Prime Minister has declared Hungarian collaborators accountable.

In the spring we shall more strictly enforce legislation on hate speech and the denial of Auschwitz. Today it is essential that any form of racist animosity and open or coded hate speech are combated with legal action and moral condemnation without hesitation. We Hungarians would like to play a leading role in the European fight against discrimination, in protecting national, ethnic, religious, sexual and any other minorities, and in promoting the battle against discrimination. In addition to declarations and assertions condemning discrimination and hate speech, we need stable European legislation which can be universally enforced and which implements appropriate punitive sanctions. A working system is needed for the protection of minority rights within the Union, as this is our only way of protecting the minorities of Europe. This is the Union’s obligation and the Shoah’s moral commandment.

 
  
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  Schmit, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, I believe that there is not a lot to add following a debate like this, which has been calm, honest from an historical point of view and often moving.

I should simply like to say a word about the measures that need to be taken. I believe that we must now learn the appropriate lessons from this hideous experience of horror taken to the extreme. As the Presidency, we have been invited, together with the Commission, to resume work specifically on the proposal for a Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia. I believe we must do this, and I also think there are a lot of misunderstandings.

Freedom of speech and thought are sometimes invoked with a certain amount of good faith but also a good dose of naivety. That is not, however, what is at issue in this case. I believe that the verbal hatred and racism for which anti-Semitism serves as a vehicle have nothing to do with freedom of speech, since we know – and history teaches us – that verbal hatred is often followed by physical hatred: that which hits out and causes injury directly.

I therefore believe that we must be consistent with ourselves and resume this work. We must also see how we can prohibit unworthy symbols that, for their part too, incite hatred and violence, since verbal violence becomes physical violence and aggression. It is an action that we must embark upon now, and I believe it would be a modest tribute to the memory of all those who we lost in the most terrible way. I believe that, if Parliament can go down this path in conjunction with ourselves, as the Presidency, and with the Member States, it will be possible for us to make a considerable contribution.

 
  
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  Frattini, Vice-President of the Commission. – (IT) Mr President, I believe that Parliament, the Council and the Commission have this evening given important expression to what can and should be our relationship with the memory of the Holocaust. It is fair to say that remembrance can make our values stronger. As has been said, they are the values that inspired the founding fathers of our Europe and which we have a duty to preserve and strengthen.

Mr Schulz recalled – and I share the idea deeply – how the founding fathers, such as Konrad Adenauer for the people of Germany, and let me also mention Alcide De Gasperi for the Italians, represented a new beginning after the tragedy of the dictatorship. They allowed us – I say this as an Italian – to walk with our heads held high in the new Europe. That is the great debt that we owe to the founding fathers.

It has been said that remembrance is a debt that we owe to the young. Europe today has the duty to honour that debt through education, schooling and training and, in a certain way, through a commitment to remember history while looking to the future. I personally like the proposal by some Members who think it would be good to have a European Holocaust Memorial Day that we can all commemorate together at the same time.

The Commission, as Minister Schmit mentioned, is working closely with the Council to re-examine the framework decision against racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. In that respect I fully agree with the assessment made by the Council.

The Commission will soon be setting up a European agency to protect fundamental rights. To that end, I should like to reassure certain Members who have spoken that not only will such an agency not do away with our protection measures and safeguards against anti-Semitism and racism, but that it will in fact strengthen them. Respect for these principles and values will therefore remain central to the work done by the Agency, which the Commission will be setting up very soon with the Council’s agreement.

Mr President, it seems that the ghosts – if I can call them that – of hatred and intolerance, violence and racism, are reappearing in Europe today. I believe that this Europe of ours must play a major role precisely in eradicating such negative values, particularly among the young, and in promoting tolerance and dialogue with other cultures and religions instead, for the sake of a principle already enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which we have written into the European Constitution. That, I believe, is the best way to honour the victims of that tragedy.

 
  
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  President. – Ladies and gentlemen, with your permission, I shall conclude this debate on a personal note. I remember how, as a schoolboy thirty years ago today, I saw a film entitled ‘Night and Fog’, which contributed a lot to my becoming committed politically. I did not imagine that, thirty years later, I would have the emotional task of chairing this debate. I believe that, on behalf of all my fellow MEPs, I can sincerely thank the Commission, the Council and all those men and women who have participated in this very high-quality debate.

WRITTEN STATEMENT (RULE 142)

 
  
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  Özdemir (Verts/ALE), in writing. (DE) Article 1 of the Grundgesetz, the German Constitution, reads, ‘Human dignity is inviolable’. That is a lesson learned from the crimes of the Nazi era and a mission statement for future generations.

This is the source and foundation of our legal order; it needs to be communicated to new generations of young people if they are to have an awareness of history and to be reminded of their historic responsibilities. Yet the makeup of our societies is changing: young people generally, and those from immigrant backgrounds to an increasing degree, lack any sense of personal connection. For that reason, there has to be a rethink of how history is communicated, particularly in schools; teacher training, as much as teaching materials and methods, have to be adapted to take account of this demographic change. Schools are crucial to the mutual understanding of cultures. Their potential must be made use of.

What does give cause for concern is the rise in anti-Semitism in radical Muslim circles in Europe; as the EUMC’s 2003 study showed, this is particularly the case among young Arab Muslims, who are themselves potential victims of exclusion and racism. There is no excuse, though, for anti-Semitism of any kind, and so every effort must be made to involve young Muslims in society. Their social integration is of the greatest relevance if there is to be confident resistance to anti-Semitic attitudes in their own social environment.

 
Last updated: 31 March 2005Legal notice