[WATCH] 100-year-old Holocaust survivor to MEPs: ‘Hatred must not be the last word in history’

100-year-old Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer’s mother and brother were killed in Auschwitz, and she witnessed indescribable suffering at the concentration camp of Theresienstadt

European Parliament president Roberta Metsola welcomes Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander, aged 100, to the European Parliament on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
European Parliament president Roberta Metsola welcomes Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlander, aged 100, to the European Parliament on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer addressed MEPs at a special plenary sitting on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday.

77 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp on 27 January 1945, MEPs honoured the memory of victims of the Holocaust.

In her speech, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer spoke about how her mother and brother were killed in Auschwitz, and how she herself was caught and deported to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, where she witnessed indescribable suffering but survived.

After moving back to Berlin from New York at the age of 88, Friedländer now travels around Germany to meet pupils, whom she asks to become witnesses to the horrors of the Holocaust as she and her fellow survivors will not be able to for much longer.

“Be human! People did what they did because they did not recognise people as people,” she said. “You cannot love all people, but everyone deserves to be respected. There is no Christian blood, no Jewish blood, no Muslim blood, there is only human blood. We are all the same. What happened, happened. We can no longer change it. It must only never, ever happen again.”

Friedländer said the memory of the Holocaust was today “politically abused, sometimes even ridiculed and trampled on”.

The so-called ‘Jewish Star’, she said, is “shamelessly used today by new enemies of democracy to style themselves in public – and in the middle of a democracy! – as victims. On a day like today, we must stand together so that the memory of the Holocaust remains true and is not abused by anyone.”

Friedländer called on people to be “vigilant, and not look away as we did then. Hatred, racism, anti-Semitism must not be the last word in history. Treating people as human beings, regardless of skin colour, religion or ethnicity, is especially true today. Humanity, tolerance and respect are more important than ever for peaceful coexistence. That is my wish on this important day of remembrance and commemoration, for the world, for Europe, and for us all.”

Echoing her sentiment, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola called upon MEPs and the piblic to remember the crimes committed against humanity in the past, but also remember the importance of speaking up, in the present.

“United in diversity, we speak up against Holocaust deniers, against conspiracy myths, against disinformation and against violence of every kind that target and single out members of our communities.

“We will honour the legacy of the Holocaust victims. By never forgetting. By never being complacent. By always, always speaking up.”

European Council President Charles Michel stressed that the Holocaust was a European tragedy, and that unimaginable crimes were perpetrated on European soil. “We all have a special responsibility and a special duty. And we are all the guardians of this memory,” he said, highlighting that Europe is the home of Jews and that defending European democracy means fighting antisemitism.

In her response to Mrs Friedländer’s testimony, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The Union we want to build is a place where everyone can be who they want to be. A place where a Jewish woman like Simone Veil, a survivor of the Holocaust, can rise to become the President of this proud European Parliament, a place where everyone is entitled to the same rights, and is treated with the same dignity.”

The commemoration concluded with a minute’s silence in honour of the victims of the Holocaust, and a musical interlude.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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