Deputy Sec-Gen of the Council of Europe: It Is Our Duty to Prevent the Hatred That the Holocaust Allowed

By Hamodia Staff

The deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Bjorn Berge, made it clear at the conference marking the Day of Liberation and Rescue of the survivors of the Holocaust on Wednesday, that it is our duty to prevent hatred of the Jews that is rampant throughout Europe.

“The Council was established 75 years ago in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was built on the foundation of the promise of “Never again.” Never again will we allow fascism and tyranny to reign. Never again will the horrors of war prevail, and never again will we allow the terrible crimes that result from war, among which was the worst of all – the Holocaust, the crime that shook this continent to its core,” he said.

The special conference was held at the Council of Europe’s headquarters in Strasbourg, and commemorated the rescue of Jews from the clutches of the Nazis on the day established a decade ago by Jewish businessman, Gabriel German Zakharyayev. The 46 representatives of the member states serving on the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, were in attendance. It was the first time that the event, arranged by the German, French, and British delegations, had taken place.

Berge added, “I am therefore grateful for the opportunity granted to me to speak here today and for the privilege to be part of this event on 26 Iyar, marking the Day of Liberation and Rescue. This is a relatively new event in the Jewish calendar, and while it invokes the memory of the murder of the six million Jews, it also contains a message of hope.

“German Zakharyayev has done so much to garner recognition for this day, giving the Jewish communities the opportunity to show gratitude to those who liberated Europe and to remember the day on which the Jews were saved from the Nazi terror.

“Since time immemorial, the Jewish faith has recognized the important values of positivity, gratitude, and love of life. These values are twice as touching on the Day of Liberation and Rescue, which this year occurs simultaneously with the 80th anniversary of the landing of the allied armies in Europe. We shall remember this day and the many victims who fell.

“We thank them for their service and their efforts to create a more viable future for our continent. We also thank them for the opportunity to be together as we remember what was lost, and to strengthen our commitment to a future in which every person is given the chance for a life of peace, security, and dignity.”

The Rabbi of the Chemdat Shlomo Congregation in Strasbourg, Rabbi Mendel Samama, opened the event with a speech explaining the essence of the initiative to mark the Day of Liberation and Rescue, and the importance of establishing it in the Jewish calendar. He said, “The Jewish people have the longest and most powerful memory, and the degree of gratitude is of the most fundamental importance to them.”

The Chief Rabbi of Strasbourg, Rabbi Avraham Weill, said that “On this day, which is dedicated to honest reflection on the darkest years of history, it is more important than ever, both in Europe and the rest of the world, to think about the future. The message of the European Commission and state representatives today and from now on, is the determination of the institutions of the European Union and the countries of the Union to persevere in the tireless war against anti-Semitism and against legislation abolishing religious practice.”  

German Zakharyayev, initiator of the Day of Liberation and Rescue, also addressed participants, saying, “Our generation has endured bitter trials. However, when we remember that the world was drawn into a world war, and the Chosen Nation became a target for Nazi assassins, we need to appreciate the nations of the world over and over again, and remind them that just as in the past they managed to overcome differences of opinion and unite to liberate the world, to rise up from the ashes of the ruins and build a new world based on new, humane principles, they can do the same today.

“We pray and thank the Creator, and honor the memory of those who sacrificed their lives. It is our duty to pass on to the future generations the memory of what they endured and the price they had to pay for our future.”

The special event concluded with Kel Malei Rachamim, performed by the military chaplain and cantor, Jonathan Blum, the singing of Oseh Shalom Bimromav, and with the lighting of three candles by Rabbi Weill and friends of the French and German delegations. Rabbi Weill spoke, saying “The candles we light are the light that sparks our hearts; the light of life that shines in the dark of the night.”

The Council of Europe is one of the first political organizations established in Europe following the Second World War to protect human rights.

The two statutory bodies of the council are the Committee of Ministers, which comprises the foreign ministers of all 46 member states and represented by their permanent representatives and ambassadors to the Council; and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, made up of the national parliaments of the member states.

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