Keynote speech to Moscow Holocaust Memorial Day Gathering by Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations, Simon Wiesenthal Centre

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Keynote speech to Moscow Holocaust Memorial Day Gathering of over 1,000 Invitees by Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director for International Relations, Simon Wiesenthal Centre

Excellencies, Friends:

I thank the Russian Holocaust Centre for the invitation to address you today and especially its President, Duma Parliament Special Chamber Member Alla Gerber and its Chairman, Dr. Ilya Altman, for their hospitality.

I was born in England after the war and have great respect for the power of water - 30 miles of Channel that saved my family from the Holocaust. But water was not enough to prevent a Hitler invasion of the British Isles. I acknowledge the 25 million Soviet soldiers on the Eastern front, who, in alliance with the West, secured us from the horrors on the Continent.

30 miles of Channel today are worth as much as 3,000 Atlantic and 5,000 Pacific oceans - zero!

Today's threats in the West are tomorrow's in the East and vice-versa.

The genocidal intent of the Holocaust was documented in the Wannsee Protocol, just projected on the screen in front of you. It lists 11 million Jews in 33 states and territories to be murdered, of whom 5 million in the USSR and 330,000 in England. Six million were the deed, 11 the intent.

Today, we face a similar Protocol, the Charter of the terrorist organisation Hamas; its articles 7 and 32, calls for the death of Jews worldwide.

Simon Wiesenthal would say, "What begins with the Jews, never ends with them," and I recall an incident in Berlin at the inauguration of the Memorial to the deported Sinti and Roma Gypsies, Chancellor Merkel's speech was heckled by a group of young Roma waving banners. Security arrived to remove them. Mrs. Merkel said, "Let them speak."

The young Roma leader said, "It is moving to mourn for our grandparents murdered 70 years ago, but what are you doing against Gypsophobia and the pogroms against us in today's Europe?”

The same sentiment applies to the Jews. Resurgent anti-Semitic violence, attacks on the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are a daily occurrence across Europe. It is so much easier to mourn the victims of the Nazis than confront the spreading epidemic of today.

Twenty-five years ago, Dr. Altman and I first met in Holland and determined to work together. In 1992, we visited Archangel in the Russian Arctic in the context of the Swedish teacher's programme emanating from the Stockholm Forum on the Holocaust.

I telephoned the head of the local Jewish community to know if he would attend the opening. He had not received an invitation. When I queried the Swedish organiser, he responded, "We are teaching the Holocaust, not about Jews of today!"

The Russian Holocaust Centre agreed that this decoupling was inadmissible. As a first joint activity, we brought to UNESCO headquarters in Paris one of the four liberators of Auschwitz-Birkenau, General Vitaly Petrenko.

In 2004, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the French Association Verbe et Lumiere, through the Russian Holocaust Centre, launched an essay competition in universities across the former Soviet Union, inviting the five laureates to Paris to present their papers to the Director General of UNESCO, in the presence of the Russian, Israeli, United States and German Ambassadors.

In that first year, 27 essays were submitted. Last July, our tenth year, there were well over 2,000. Over the past decade, thousands have participated and been touched by the reality of the Holocaust.

I have met many of them again here today. They have become professors, journalists, young politicians, business and hi-tech professionals. More importantly, they have stayed in touch with us and with each other.

You are a caucus of integrity that draws the lessons, an empathy for the victims and will be champions for human rights in the Russian Federation and beyond.

Simon Wiesenthal had great optimism and faith in the youth of the post-war world. We salute your generation and count on you to ensure that Auschwitz serve for all as a warning and not as a precedent.

Thank you