As we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th the world is reminded of the horrors of the past and the ongoing commitment, to ensuring that such atrocities never recur. This year marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau, a Nazi concentration camp that serves as a powerful symbol of the unspeakable acts committed during the Holocaust. This day not only honours and remembers the six million Jewish victims but also prompts us to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of Roma and other individuals who endured immense suffering under Nazi persecution.
Given the events particularly the abhorrent terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against Israel on October 7 2023, the importance of this day has become even more profound. President von der Leyen’s statements in advance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day emphasize the growing presence of antisemitism, in Europe. Shed light on the renewed anxieties faced by European Jews.
“No parent should be afraid to send their children to school,” von der Leyen stated, condemning the bullying, harassment, and attacks on Jewish individuals, as well as the vandalism of synagogues and desecration of Jewish cemeteries.
The President emphasized the need for unity and support for Jewish communities, asserting, “There is no place for antisemitic hatred, especially here in Europe. And there is no justification for antisemitism.” This call to action is a reminder of the dark times in history and the importance of standing together against hatred.
The European Commission has taken measures to address antisemitism and promote Jewish life. On October 5 2021 they introduced their ever strategy to support EU countries and civil society in this regard. Additionally, on November 6 2023, the Commission released a communication titled “No place for hate; a Europe united against hatred ” which further showcases their dedication to protecting spaces and countering online hatred.
Preserving the memory of the Holocaust is of importance, especially as we are losing the last survivors. To achieve this the EU Strategy on combating antisemitism has implemented a flagship action called the ‘Network of Places Where the Holocaust Happened.’ This initiative aims to safeguard sites for educational and commemorative purposes.
The European Commission‘s efforts are not limited to Europe alone; they have also launched campaigns like #ProtectTheFacts and other initiatives that combat Holocaust distortion. These endeavours play a role in raising awareness and preventing future genocidal acts. The United Nations General Assembly Resolution on Holocaust Remembrance similarly underscores the significance of education and preserving Holocaust sites.
As part of their commitment to fighting racism and discrimination, the European Commission will allocate over €14 million, from EU funding in 2024 to support projects focused on European Remembrance. This financial support aims to strengthen remembrance efforts enhance education and research in this area as well as combat denial and distortion surrounding the Holocaust.
On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, let us heed President von der Leyen’s words: “If Europe fails the Jews, Europe will have failed us all. Never again is now!” It is our collective duty to remember the past and ensure a future where Jewish life can thrive without fear, and where antisemitism finds no shelter.