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The Holocaust was the "ultimate crime against humanity"
Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer



Germany's Fischer calls Holocaust
'ultimate crime against humanity'


Etgar Lefkovits
Mar. 17, 2005

In a second day of intense introspection sparked by the opening of Yad Vashem's new Holocaust museum, European leaders on Wednesday took turns vowing to fight renewed anti-Semitism and racism in their respective countries just six decades after the Holocaust.

Dignitaries from Germany, Poland, France and Romania each separately pledged to teach future generations the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia that plunged Europe into darkness 66 years ago, into what the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, called "the ultimate crime against humanity."

"The darkest depths of my country's history are illuminated in a horribly tangible way and the immeasurable suffering inflicted on German and European Jews by the Nazis is brought home to us and burned into our memories once and for all," he said.

In an ironic twist of history, Germany, and its foreign minister in particular, are considered to be among Israel's closest friends in Europe.

"I would call upon everyone from here, from this stage, to have the courage always to stand against evil, not to try to smooth around the corners, not to stay indifferent," Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said.

Three million Jews were murdered in Nazi occupied Poland during the Holocaust. After decades of Communist rule and a virtual news and educational blackout on Jewish suffering, the country has only recently been coming to terms with its past.

The Polish president noted that his country had recently decided to contribute $26 million towards the construction of a Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, a step seen as an attempt to counter the image of Poland as an anti-Semitic country.

"For the benefit of the past, but also for a future that has to be free of xenophobia, racism, we, the Polish people, believe it's very important not to lose the memory of our Jewish brothers and sisters," he said.

The Polish decision to fund over 75% of the Warsaw museum project despite difficult economic times comes during a period of blossoming Polish-American and Israeli-Polish ties, especially in the military sphere. Poland is now considered to be one of the most pro-Israel countries in Europe.

In his remarks, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said that the reemergence of anti-Semitism in his country was an "undeniable" fact of life.

"The government that I head struggles very firmly and vehemently against all the forms of the reappearance of anti-Semitism in France. Repression is called for and we shall do that without fail," he added.

"The tragic significance of the Holocaust has to be known and understood by all citizens, especially by the youngsters, to stop anti-Semitism and racial discrimination," Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu said.

Romania's former government took responsibility last year for the actions of Romanian authorities during World War II and promised to educate the public about the Holocaust.

An international panel of Romanian historians set up last year said the wartime regime of Marshal Ion Antonescu was responsible for the deaths of 280,000-380,000 Jews and more than 11,000 Gypsies.

Like in Poland during the Communist era, Romanians were taught that Germans were the sole perpetrators of the Holocaust, ignoring the involvement of Romania's wartime leaders.

Israel's former chief rabbi and Holocaust survivor Yisrael Meir Lau concluded: "In the shadow of the events, of the horror of the Holocaust, we have to understand that we have no choice, no alternative, but to offer a hand, one to the other, and together shoulder-to-shoulder to fight our common enemies and live among us in understanding, friendship and peace."




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