Speech

Speech by the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen Yad Vashem, March, 16, 2005

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President Katsav, esteemed Heads of State, honoured colleagues; Ladies and gentlemen,

Standing here today, at Yad Vashem, I cannot but feel a sense of the enormity of the events which these surroundings commemorate. The suffering, the loss, the despair are almost impossible to imagine. But looking at these long lists of names we are only too aware that these things did happen and must never be forgotten.

Yesterday, when we dedicated the new museum, we committed ourselves not only to remembering the Holocaust but also to continuing the fight against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry.

Soon, the last survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust will have passed away into history. Which makes the task of explaining its sombre significance to the youth of today, and tomorrow, all the more urgent.

Five years ago the Stockholm International Forum declared 27th January, the date of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, to be an annual day of remembrance. Denmark has since adopted this day as Auschwitz Day. A Danish government sponsored institute carries out public educational activities and research into events surrounding the Holocaust.

As the declaration adopted at the Stockholm Forum says, the unprecedented character of the Holocaust will always hold universal meaning.

But merely remembering is not enough. We must take an uncompromising stand against all present-day attitudes and statements that could lead the way to new crimes against humanity, to new victims sharing the fate of those whose memory we commemorate today.

And, regretably, recent events show that we must never relax our vigilance. Anti-semitism is by no means extinct, even in enlightened Europe.

In my own country, Denmark, the situation is not perfect. We grapple with the integration of immigrants of many different cultures and religions. Instances of xenophobia do occur. Fortunately, without boiling over into violence or abuse. I am glad to say that, for Denmark, anti-semitism is not an issue.

But we have our own way of tackling problems. We have chosen open debate, not bans, to fight expressions of left or right wing extremism, of racism and bigotry. Our laws concerning Libel and Blasphemy, must be obeyed. But we see no benefit in driving the deniers of the Holocaust, neo-nazis and Islamic fundamentalists and their incitement to violence and hatred underground. When exposed to the light their case becomes weak.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

There is no Holocaust Museum in Denmark. Modern history fortunately spared us the need to build one. But last year, a new museum, designed by the renowned architect Daniel Liebeskind and dedicated to our Jewish citizens, was opened at a central location in Copenhagen. It is a testimony to a small but living and vibrant community. Well integrated while not assimilated, since it retains its religious and cultural distinctiveness.

The relationship of the Danes to their Jewish fellow-citizens, is illustrated by the rescue of almost all of Denmark’s Jews from Nazi persecution in October 1943. Our Swedish neighbours assisted by generously receiving thousands of refugees.

At the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of this event at the Copenhagen Synagoge, I said that the organised persecution and unprecedented systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people is a shameful and indelible stain on European history. I can only repeat this here at Yad Vashem today.

To all of you here today, I say that we have a common responsibility to do our utmost to prevent any such horrors recurring in any shape or form. Both now and in the future.

For, though we must move on, we must never forget.

Thank you for your attention.