International Holocaust Rememberance Day 2021
This speech was delivered on the occasion of the virtual ceremony organised by the European Jewish Association on 27 January 2021.
Today we commemorate the memory of almost 6 million Jewish men, women and children killed together with other victims of Nazi cruelty during World War II in an unprecedented genocide.
Among these victims, more than 25,000 were gathered at the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen to be deported to Auschwitz.
They had lives, they had dreams, they had hope for themselves and their children.
They never did come back to us.
Exactly one year ago, during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, I had the opportunity to speak with some of the last survivors of the Shoah.
No book, no film, no study can ever give a sufficient account of the horror that they had to endure.
We owe them an apology because we were not able to protect them from these atrocities.
We owe them our gratitude because their testimonies are an unforgettable signal to other generations.
And we owe them to remain vigilant and strongly committed to fight against any form of hatred for others.
At the international level, together with our communities, we actively participate in the work of the International Alliance for Holocaust Remembrance and we cooperate with the European Holocaust Research Initiative.
As from this summer, Belgium will assume the presidency of the International Committee of the Arolsen Archives, which collects and opens to the public millions of documents on the victims of Nazi crimes.
Belgium has had legislation to condemn Holocaust denial for more than 25 years. Yet we are witnessing an increase in the distortion of the Holocaust, which is opening the way to its minimization and subsequent oblivion in a more insidious manner.
Of course, we will fight it with the political and legal tools at our disposal. But, above all, we will fight it with our hearts and our souls since we know where this hatred can lead us.
Belgium, together with its European partners, has committed to developing a global strategy to prevent and combat all forms of anti-Semitism.
Genocide prevention starts by fighting racism, intolerance, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and hate speech, all of which lead to the dehumanization of certain groups.
We have to keep remembering and to keep working to ensure that the words “Never again” are not an empty statement.