Dear Mr. Anup Raj Sharma, Chair of the Human Rights Commission of Nepal,Excellencies, Friends from various Associations in Nepal, and Members of the Press:
Let me say how deeply honoured I am to welcome you in this house, the residence of the German Ambassador to Nepal, for the opening ceremony of the International Day commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
First, I wish to greet His Excellency Benny Omer, the Ambassador of Israel to Nepal– and through him the Jewish people. He has come to be with us on a day on which we, the Germans, confront Germany’s shame. From 1933 to 1945, 6 Million lives were wiped out, because they were Jews. Hundreds of thousands of others were also killed or imprisoned, because they were Roma, Homosexuals, Communists or living with a handicap. The only link between these very different victims was the need to blame a scape-goat for whatever was perceived to be wrong, and the nauseating theory that the so-called dominant race which had to be kept pure. That was how the Nazi dictatorship could continue to thrive.
More important: this a day on which we, the Germans, look into Germany’s loss.I cannot name the authors and artists we lost, because they were German and Jewish.I often had to insist a lot with my parents, aunts and grand-parents, before I heard them talk about their German Jewish neighbours who disappeared. This loss is also the loss of the other nations which were conquered by the Nazi Germany – Poles, Czechs, Slowaks, Hungarians, French, Greek. With them, I mourn today those of the neighbours, classmates, colleagues of these times who were German and Jewish. I mourn those ordinary people whose sons and daughters and grand-sons and grand-daughters should be with us today. Perhaps one of them should be standing at my place, representing Germany – and they simply are not there, and never, never will be.
But today, and this is the most important to me: this is also a day of honour and of victory. Benny Omer crossing the threshold of my residence, creates an immense honour for me, the ambassador of Germany. It is not for me to qualify this act of forgiveness. But what I can do is express the sense of victory it gives to me. It is a victory for myself, for Germany, and for us who believe in humanity. The evil, in the end, did not win. Each survivor is a living hero. I want to thank our hero, today – I just want to turn to Benny Omer, and, dear Benny, show you the immense joy I feel each time I see you or think of you and can say: You are a Jew – and you are alive.
It is with joy also that I greet the United Nations Resident coordinator,Valérie Julliand. The United Nations are a product of World WarII, they are one of the great lessons learned. Never again this to happen. The state of Israel has initiated this UN commemoration, and rightly so. Germany will always welcome Israel in the community of States, always defend the right of Israel to exist and to strive for peaceful relations with its neighbours.
It is just as important to welcome the Ambassador of the European Union amongst us, Veronica Cody. The European Union, too, is a direct consequence of the horrors and errors leading to the second World War.The Germany which I represent and serve, the Germany of today and of tomorrow, is a European Germany. This is a lesson Thomas Mann, one of the greater of our writers drew in the 1950s: We never again can attempt to createa German Europe, he wrote. What we need is a European Germany instead. Through the European Union we achieve this goal.
Let me stress that the European Union is a successful peace project because it is something totally new, never heard of before. Never in what we describe as human history was this tried before. To have you here today, Veronica, amongst us, allows me to salute the power which nations have to build the very new, the very different. Trust was created again, and so, as another lesson learnt, we adhere to the European Union, a living, powerful reality among the States of this world.
This day of commemoration is celebrated all over the world, but here in Nepal, it may take on a specific significance.
I greet the Chair of Nepali Human Rights Commission, Mr. Anup Raj Sharma, and (all) the members of the commission.
Although the Holocaust is a unique tragedy, and although it would be unethical, unhistorical, and foolish, to compare what happened there with other conflicts, we can, however, relate to how people cope with conflict. We can understand bereavement, guilt; we can relate to their claim for justice. Not in the “what”, but in the “how” – that is where lessons may be learnt.
Nepal has its victims – so many have to cope with their loss, their sorrow, the pain, and the anger. We think of them and we relate to them, not just because of their individual fate, but also because today, we remember how immensely humanity in its entirety can suffer, if the claims for truth, justice and reconciliation do not find adequate responses.
Nepal has its heroes, too: those who successfully struggle to get to the voting booth, who continue to believe and who keep engaging in the fight for democracy. I specifically think of all the ordinary people, who do the jobs of heroes. One of them is Meera Katwal from Udaypur, who is now sitting upright in a hospital bed in Kathmandu, with her leg lost to an bomb attack while she was serving her party, but her mind and spirit intact and combative. We should think of them, too, on a day like this.
And Nepal has its future: Those every day’s heroes (it is not only about votes, there is much more to it)– Those every day heroes create a Nepal which is unique and new: a democracy, not imported but created here, in its unique fashion. The make it a tough call for those who are elected to find the wisdom, the listening capacity and the courage to come up with credible solutions which point towards the future.
With this future, Nepal is already now holding its place among the nations of the world.Nepal’s army’s contribution to the UN peace-keeping operations also has a specific significance today. We think of those Nepali army men who served and commanded in UNDOV or UNIFIL – working in the region where Ambassador Omer’s home lies.
Mr. Sharma, I believe you will be the right person to conclude this ceremony, to relate to our quest for justice, meaning and true reconciliation, and to evoke the power we have to build the new, the never heard of. Let me say that the European Germany which I have the honour to represent,wishes to be, in all of this, Nepal’s trusted partner.
Before that: Benny, your turn.
( Full Speech of Ambassador Roland Schäfer at the opening ceremony of International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust)