by NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană at International Holocaust Remembrance Day

  • 27 Jan. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 27 Jan. 2021 14:43

(As prepared)

Thank you Ambassador Talò and Ambassador Szatkowski, and welcome to everyone here today as we commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

On this day seventy six years ago, the Red Army liberated Auschwitz and the 7000 people who had managed to survive the death camp.

Other camps such as Dachau and Buchenwald were later liberated by the United States, and Bergen-Belsen by the United Kingdom. 

We remember the horrendous atrocities of the Holocaust and of all the Nazi concentration camps.

Where millions of Jews, Roma, homosexuals, people with disabilities and others suffered and died in the most inhumane conditions imaginable. 

The paintings and drawings of Auschwitz prisoners here before us are a stark reminder of what once was, and must never again be.  

We also remember the hope and solidarity that were born out of those darkest days.

The hope for a better and safer world.

A world where hatred and antisemitism have no place.

And where people from different nationalities, backgrounds and religions can defend human dignity for all.

And safeguard fundamental values, such as the right to life, to justice and to freedom.  

NATO was created to uphold these values.

It is our duty to protect them against those trying to undermine our way of life.

And it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to respect and live up to those values.

We owe it to the millions who suffered and died in concentration camps. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generations.

Never again.

The theme of this year’s Remembrance Day is ‘Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust’.

A theme that holds many lessons for us also today, at a time when our societies strive to recover from a global pandemic. And attempt to reconstitute amidst uncertainty and unpredictability.

You cannot compare the Holocaust to the pandemic – or any other challenge.

But there are similar lessons to be learned.  

One important lesson to be learned is on truth.

Because the first step to recovery is to acknowledge what truly happened. And counter attempts to deny and distort events.

To this day, some still deny the Holocaust.

Or interpret history in their own, twisted way.

Sadly, disinformation, propaganda and hate speech are used every day to try to disrupt, divide and diminish us as individuals and as democracies.

We must always be vigilant and continue to fight false narratives using facts and credible information.  

Ultimately, the truth will prevail.

But perhaps the greatest lesson of all, is one of friendship and cooperation.

We don’t recover and reconstitute alone. We do it together, joining forces.

When recalling the story of when she nearly died of hunger and exhaustion in Auschwitz, Dr. Edith Eger - a 93 year old survivor – talks about those who came to her rescue. “All we had was each other then”, she says, “and all we have is each other now”.

We all stand stronger when we stand with each other.

And this is the essence of NATO.

Standing together as NATO Allies, and with our partners, to overcome any challenge together.  

Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,

I know the challenges of putting together an in-person event in these COVID-19 times.

So I am truly grateful to all those of you who have made this event possible.

The Italian and Polish delegations, the artists and curators, the World Jewish Congress, and the NATO staff.

With this artwork we are privileged to have in the Agora, we remember the Holocaust.

And we remember who we are and what we stand for in this great Alliance.

Thank you very much and thank you for fighting for our values - freedom, human dignity, solidarity - every day.