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Statement by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on the Occasion of the Official Opening of the Photo Exhibition “Lest we Forget” at UNESCO Headquarters (Video stream)

25.01.2021 - Speech

Their eyes look at us. Nothing is said. But we can almost hear the voices of the women and men portrayed in the pictures. They appeal to us not to look away. Not to be indifferent.

Luigi Toscano shares with us his personal portraits of Holocaust survivors. No words are needed to make their echo resonate within us. Through his work, Luigi Toscano, together with his team, have captured their message.

Lest We Forget is much more than art. It is a reminder never to bury the past. And an investment in a more peaceful future.

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”, the UNESCO constitution states. That is what this exhibition is all about. That is why it belongs at UNESCO.

Tolerance and peace are built through dialogue and education. They are the most effective vaccine that we can give our young people against the virus of anti-Semitism, racism and all other forms of prejudice.

Some of the women and men whose portraits we see in the exhibition still visit schools to share their personal life stories with young people. This is a great privilege – one for which we are deeply grateful.

But we must also prepare for a future in which personal exchange with Holocaust survivors will no longer be possible.

Their testimony lives on in these images. It is our responsibility, as democrats, as fellow human beings, to preserve it. We owe that to the victims into whose eyes we are looking here today. And we owe it to our children, for whom the memory of our dark past holds the promise of a brighter future.

Thank you.

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