Speech by Gerhard Schröder, Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
»Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, after visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial, it is hard to find any words, let alone the right ones, to express the incomprehensible. As a former Chancellor of Germany, I feel that I have a special responsibility when being asked to speak on such an occasion and in this place. I bow my head to all the victims of the tyrannical Nazi regime. It originated in Germany and claimed millions of victims.
Here in Auschwitz-Birkenau of all places, where the annihilation of human life was perpetuated by a monstrous machinery; I say, we are here in remembrance of every single victim. We owe it to them and their dignity that was brutally taken from them. But, above all, the commitment we owe to the victims is that we will endeavour to ensure that such a crime can NEVER be allowed to happen again.
Ladies and gentlemen, this historic responsibility places special duties on us all, but especially on Germany. The memory of the National Socialist period, of war, genocide and crimes against humanity has become deeply ingrained in our national identity. Out of this remembrance arises the imperative for democratic Germany to oppose the forces of injustice and tyranny, whatever form they may take. Out of this remembrance grows Germany’s recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state within secure borders. This commitment is one of the cornerstones of Germany’s foreign policy. It is also a fundamental principle of German foreign policy to strive for a viable and independent state for the Palestinian people. We know that this is a precondition for the establishment and maintenance of permanent peace in the Middle East.
Ladies and gentlemen, the death of millions of people, the anguish of the survivors, the agonies of the victims and the resistance of the brave – all these are the foundation of our joint mission to create a better future. This better future will only be possible without anti-semitism and racism, without injustice and violence. That is why I feel deeply honoured to be a patron of the Aladdin Project. The dialogue between cultures and religions helps us move towards a goal that we all share, namely, to live in a world of peace and freedom.
The purpose of this project is to achieve an objective and sensitive understanding of history. This is needed because – all too often – strange, misguided ideas still exist with regard to the Shoah. This project works for respectful, humane and, above all, peaceful relations within and between our societies. We want people of diverse origins, different language and religious backgrounds to be able to share a common future and enjoy a life in peace. Tolerance, mutual understanding and reconciliation are the lessons we must learn from the Shoah. That is the least that we owe to the victims of Auschwitz-Birkenau. And that is the mission! A mission that is incumbent on us across the generations.«
Speech by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Aladdin Project , on Tuesday, 1st February 2011, Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum