Holocaust Memorial Day is a time of recollection. It forces the whole of humanity to think for itself. It forces each one of us not to forget that in Europe in recent times, after having reached the Socratic thought of doubt and having travelled the paths of Enlightenment, there have been men who proclaimed racial laws, first, and then carried out an extermination. This is the Shoah. Nazi Germany and its fascist allies have been guilty of this disgrace.
The Shoah means extermination camps, gas chambers, slavery. A holocaust, a genocide that affected about six million Jews and more than sixteen million people between 1933 and 1945.
Tragedy that took place in the same land we’re living now, our Europe. Tragedy that could happen because many, but not all, when they were not the authors preferred to remain silent.
Not all of them. There are, in fact, also those who with all their strength actively opposed and did not want to passively suffer one of the darkest moments in the recent history of humanity in Europe. Unfortunately, not the last. How can we forget the atrocities of the wars in the Balkans?
On 27 January 1945 Red Army troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp. Since that day, man has had to confront his own ability to carry out atrocities. Auschwitz is one of the greatest symbols of memory, a symbol to be protected. Auschwitz is, and must remain, a World Heritage Site.
Anti-Semitism, and more generally racism, are themes on which man must not stop thinking. Unfortunately, they are themes that, throughout the world, still appear to be unexceeded, indeed they appear to regain strength. They must be at the heart of the political agendas of the world’s greats. They are issues that cannot and must not be used and exploited but tackled with foresight and commitment.
There are too many signs in the world that lead us to shout our fear that human beings are losing the ability to accept each other’s differences.
The word racism indicates theories and behaviors based on the wicked idea that there is a biological division of humanity into superior and inferior races.
A cynical idea, scientifically non-existent, aimed at discriminating nations, dividing humanity into higher and lower classes, classifying cultures.
At the centre, however, there is the will to justify, to justify oneself, in the act, even extreme, of oppressing the different in order to gain an advantage.
In 1950 in Paris, UNESCO approved the “Declaration on Race”. It officially and definitively denies the correlation between the biological difference of human races and the difference in psychological, intellectual and behavioral characteristics, it states:
“A race, from a biological point of view, can be defined as one of the population groups that make up the species Homo sapiens. These groups are able to hybridize with each other, but, by virtue of the isolating barriers that in the past kept them more or less separated, they show some physical differences due to their different biological histories. In short, the term “race” indicates a human group characterized by certain concentrations, relative to frequency and distribution, of hereditary particles (genes) or physical characters, which appear, oscillate, and often disappear over time due to geographical isolation. With regard to races, the only characteristics that anthropologists can effectively use as a basis for classifications are physical and physiological. According to current knowledge, there is no evidence that groups of humanity differ in their innate mental characteristics with regard to intelligence or behaviour”.
The history of people’s progressive acquisition of human rights has been a very tortuous one. Suffice it to say that in ancient times rights were granted by the Gods who established as the 42 contained in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or the 10 borrowed from the Jewish Exodus in some of which we read between the lines the protection of individual rights, for example, the right to life in “not to kill”.
There were, in more recent times, several declarations on Human Rights approved in various states, one of the most important of which was drawn up by the five Founding Fathers of the future United States of America.
The Fathers of the Fatherland of the future United States of America in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence ratified in 1791 placed at the center of the identity of the nascent state, and in particular in the first ten articles of the Constitution, the firm leaders of freedom of thought, of the press, of action, which are the great teaching of that historical moment.
In 1789, at the same time, the Declaration of Human and Citizen’s Rights drafted by the Marquis Gilbert de La Fayette was voted in France. It declared that “all men are equal before the law”, expressly speaking of “natural, inalienable and sacred human rights” and defining freedom as “being able to do everything that does not harm others”.
In 1948 the United Nations voted by a large majority for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads in one of its important passages “without distinction of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national and social origin, wealth, birth or other condition”.
Today, after all the work done by men to recognize Human Rights, can we really say that we find ourselves in these declarations? Can we say that we accept each other without distinction of race, colour, sex, language, language, religion, political opinion, national and social origin, wealth, birth? Are there still forms of racism and anti-Semitism in 2019?
The answer to this last question can only be “dramatically yes”.
A creeping, when not obvious, racism appears in many choices that men, even rulers, on every continent, make. Coexistence, safe and in well-being, among the “different” is, with ever greater evidence and insistence, one of the great issues with which we must confront ourselves and to which we must give positive, ethical, far-sighted answers.
Even more than yesterday, man exploits the other weaker man. Weakness due to fewer opportunities such as poverty, hunger, lack of democratic political leadership in his homeland.
The richest nations live with fear the increasing presence of human beings of different ethnicity, history, culture, skin colour and religion. Fear due to poor processing, fear due to greed and cynicism.
In all this anti-Semitism, ethnic and religious, returns to be a “symbolic theme”. Religious discrimination as instrumentalizing protection from the “different”.
“Humanity has not been able to learn from its own mistakes” this is our cry today.
“No woman and no man can be defined as inferior to the other” this is our certainty.
“Whatever religion we profess, we must know that our religious belief does not teach us to kill or drive away other human beings, just use religion as an alibi for our behavior” this is the route that must be the basis of our choices.
“No more fear, violence, exclusion, social drama. The behaviour of each one of us, wherever we are, whatever our social role is, is based on far-sighted and wise action, avoiding the same dramatic mistakes that history has made us live” these are our hopes today on Memorial Day.
No more alibi. Racism is still a threat to the whole of humanity today. Racism is preconception, it is lack of culture, it is lack of ethics, it is self-referentiality’, it is economic cynicism.
The Shoah, Auschwitz, was not a barbaric act. The Shoah, Auschwitz, is, today, a barbaric act. “Arbeit macht frei” (Work makes you free) is not a phrase from the past but a cynical way of thinking that governs the behavior of many still today when the weak are used in the absence of the most elementary ethical behavior.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, perhaps having the courage to pause and think about all that pain symbolically represented by Auschwitz, having the courage and the desire to go and take our young people to that sad place of tragic pain, we will be able to fully understand what it means to abandon the weakest people to themselves. To abandon to oneself those who are forced to flee from wars, hunger, poverty to seek a better life.
One question remains strong in me: why can the memory of these facts not change humanity? But then, I ask myself, what is the point of remembering if it does not help to change?
The President, Paolo Giordani