Ladies and gentlemen, guests,
Allow me to begin by saying thank you.
Thank you to UNESCO, thank you to Audrey Azoulay and Peter Reuss – thank you for inviting me to this ceremony to commemorate the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Today, 75 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Here, in a place like Paris. Me, a representative of the German parliament, who, in contrast to what some of my compatriots think and say, has never benefitted from any so-called grace from having been born at a later date.
In fact, although I was born after the darkest chapter in German history, I have a profound sense of responsibility – a responsibility to not repress the past; to not simply turn the page on this chapter; but far more to accept it as an integral part of my history and to act accordingly.
“This is what our sons and daughters must never forget”, writes Éric de Rothschild in his work ‘Pour mémoire’ (‘For Memory’) – which I keep in my office in Berlin, as it happens, in full view of my visitors.
“They will convey it to their children,” he continues, “who will convey it to theirs, until the last generations. Because we must never lose the memories and accounts of this absolute evil.”
That is exactly what you’ve done, and what we want do to today: keep the memory alive, at both the scientific and political level; remove the internal distance with a question that concerns us all, the young and the less young alike; and enable the stories of all those who were persecuted, deported and killed to remain with us forever.
As when we do so, it stops us from forgetting this crime against humanity that must never be repeated; the utter breach of humanity and humanism that took place under Nazi domination; this painful history that is now a mission for all of us – a mission that obliges us to fight resolutely against everything that made such atrocities possible; to fight without respite against all forms of anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination; to fight, finally, against any attempt to talk down or re-interpret a history that simply cannot be rationalised.
Ladies and gentlemen, for me, the 27 January, the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, is of course a day of mourning, commemoration and remembrance. But it is a day of memory clearly oriented to the present, to a shared future; a memory that is not in any way backward-looking but on the contrary, one that provides the firm foundations for a progressive and confident outlook, a resolutely European outlook.
As it is Europe that – despite its many imperfections, despite the sometimes intimidating number of challenges we face – enabled us French, German, Polish, Czechs, Belgians, Austrians, to move from hostile to neighbourly relations, and to go from being neighbours to being friends.
And to me this friendship seems more important than ever today – at a time when the words “Jew”, “gipsy” or “homosexual” are once again being used as insults in our playgrounds; at a time when our parliaments – in Germany, in France, all over Europe and the world – once again house representatives who think they have the right to decide who will or will not be part of their exclusive club of supposedly homogenous populations. When we are confronted by female and (above all) male politicians who want one thing more than anything else: that we become accustomed to their hate language, their constant attacks on minorities, their ideology based on the notion of unequal value, even their attempts to re-interpret the past.
So, let me conclude by saying thank you, once again.
Thank you to all of you who have made this European friendship possible.
Thank you to the survivors, who have shown the courage to recount their fates, and who have made the memory and commemoration that brings us together here today possible.
Finally, thank you to all of you who keep alive the two words, born exactly 75 years ago, 1,224 kilometres from here at Auschwitz-Birkenau: nie wieder, plus jamais ça, never again.