Dear Vice-President of the European Parliament
Dear Soraya Post
Dear Romani Rose
I am very glad to join you after a long day of learning in the framework of the Commission commemoration of the Holocaust Remembrance Day (27th January). Every year our training attracts more and more interest and seeing so many of you here, from the Commission and other institutions (EP, Council, CoR, EESC) proves the fundamental importance of the training.
My thanks go to Dr. Jasch and his colleagues from the Memorial Site Wannsee Conference. The Holocaust Remembrance Training they provide to EU officials is not only a history lesson. It provides us with the essential link between the work here in the administration, in the so-called 'Brussels bubble', and the substantial impact this work can have.
Fundamental Rights are not an additional work stream in the Commission: they need to be internalised by each and every one of us, in all our policy and in our daily work. What happens if we leave this path?
The Wannsee conference in Berlin, 76 years ago, is one of the cruellest examples as to where bureaucracy can lead.
In modern democracies we are convinced that institutions and civil servants safeguard civilization, progress and the rule of law. We assume that chaos leads to crime and genocide.
76 years ago at the Wannsee Conference such structured and well regarded institutions came together to plan, organise and implement in cold bureaucratic language the annihilation of the European Jews.
These administrators, lawyers and technocrats who often didn't do more than signing papers, developing timetables, adding numbers and participating in conferences. But it was part of something that destroyed a whole people.
That leads us to our role as civil servants today. We all have a particular moral responsibility to abiding to the common values our Institutions protect and promote and also, even more importantly, toward each of the citizens of Europe in all our actions. This moral responsibility is based on the experience of the Holocaust.
To be aware of the past and specifically the legacy of the Holocaust as an inseparable part of our history is necessary for everyone serving Europe.
The training has also provided you with some specific insights to the impact of the Holocaust on the lives of Roma people and their continued discrimination. Still today, many Europeans lack the awareness about the Roma people that have fallen victims to the Nazi atrocities.
Even decades after the end of the war, this is not acknowledged enough, despite Roma people being the second-largest group murdered on racial grounds during the Holocaust.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the Czech Republic a pig farm has been running since 1973 at the former Roma concentration camp at Lety u Písku. Just last year, the Czech administration finally signed a contract to buy out the property and restore the site as a place of remembrance to the Roma genocide.
Roma have been European citizens for centuries and still today, they are the largest European minority group, often subject to hatred and high level of poverty. This must end!
As Europeans, unified in the "biggest project of peace – European Union", we have a collective responsibility for the wellbeing of all our citizens regardless their ethnicity, sexual orientation or belief.
We cannot afford to condemn the victims of the Holocaust to a second death of oblivion.
So today we are also opening the exhibition "Racial diagnosis: Gypsy - The genocide of the Sinti and Roma people and the long struggle for recognition" by the Documentation and Cultural Centre of German Sinti and Roma here in the Berlaymont.
The exhibition reveals the destroyed lives behind the abstract documents recording their bureaucratically organised annihilation. It reveals real dramas and traumatizing experiences which those who survived the Holocaust experience have not managed to recover from.
I am honoured to introduce two of the most important pioneers in the long struggle for the Roma Holocaust recognition: Mr Romani Rose, the Chair of the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and Ms Soraya Post.
Mr Romani Rose - a passionate fighter for the recognition of the Roma and Sinti genocide and one of the initiators of this exhibition, and
Mrs Soraya Post - as MEP who has succeeded to put the Roma Holocaust recognition high on the European political agenda, through European Parliament Resolutions and Reports calling on the recognition of the Roma Holocaust and on the fight against antigypsyism.
Before closing my intervention and passing the floor to Mr Rose and Mrs Post, I would like to remind everybody that today, we also pay tribute to the memory of Simone Veil, first President of the European Parliament who passed away last year, who herself as a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen, underscored her solidarity with the Sinti and Roma and called for a joint commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. This is exactly what we are doing today!