Speech by the Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator H.E. Volkan Bozkır at the Holocaust Commemoration Ceremony held at Ankara University

Bern Büyükelçiliği 02.02.2016

Honorable Rector,

Esteemed Chief Rabbi and Esteemed Head of Turkish Jewish Community,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are gathering here today to commemorate the Holocaust and its victims, which is an unprecedented atrocity in the world history.

I respectfully commemorate millions of people who lost their lives as a result of this preposterous atrocity which took place in the middle of Europe, 71 years ago.

Beginning from the 18th century, humankind had gone through a unique phase of technological development. An optimistic belief in the continuous advancement in philosophy, arts and other fields with the progress pioneered by the human reason, a confidence in modern civilization had arisen.

However, with the advent of 1930s, it was revealed that modern civilization was not the antithesis of savage barbarity. This new period made it clear that it had its creative nature providing remarkable developments in medicine, transportation, science, art and so forth. Nevertheless, it also disclosed the fact that it had a destructive nature that led to wars, massacres and death camps which caused millions of deaths.

This period witnessed the transformation of technological advancements which contributed much to human progress into means which were used in the brutally extermination of millions of people. And these perpetrators were extremely “normal” citizens who felt themselves obliged to obey the given orders.

The foundations of the European Union, to which our country continues the accession process, were laid in an environment of dismay caused by this unprecedented savagery, in order to establish an order which would prevent the reoccurrence of such sufferings.

As stipulated by the second article of the Treaty on European Union, the Union, founded on “the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”,

was emerged as a model peace project so as to transform enmity into friendship, as well as rancor and hatred into mutual understanding.

Yet unfortunately, today it is not possible to say that these values manifested by the European Union finally put xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism, which poisoned the old continent, behind.

We have been regretfully witnessing the rise of racist assaults in various places in Europe in recent years. Moreover, it is clear that anti-Semitism malady recruited new partners and that two other phenomena, Islamophobia and xenophobia were emerged.

Doubts on the maintenance of multiculturalism and co-existence and the rise of far-right parties provoke anxiety for future.

We regrettably observe that anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, which are on the rise around the world and which could be identified as epidemic diseases, have also impacts on some marginal circles in Turkey from time to time. I would like to state that, regardless of any religious, ethnic and sectarian identity it is against, it is not possible for us to tolerate any kind of hate speech.

As it is said to be quoted by Suleiman the Magnificent in the conversation with his Grand Vizier Rustem Pasha 500 years ago, as much as we see the colourful variety of flowers as a perfection and admire it, we should also acknowledge the diversity of humans as created by God (Allah) and admire the beauty created by this diversity..

Esteemed guests,

I consider the outgoing year was important in terms of the manifestation of our Government’s will on this issue and breaking of taboos which were believed to exist.

In this context,
throughout the year of 2015 we held numerous events in cooperation with our Jewish community, notably, commemoration ceremony for the Holocaust victims held in Ankara on 27 January 2015, commemoration ceremony for those who lost their lives in the “Struma” disaster held in Istanbul on 24 February 2015, the opening of “the Great Synagogue of Edirne” on 26 March 2015, and the celebration of the Hanuka Festival with the participation our Jewish, Christian and Muslim citizens at the Ortaköy Square.

I believe that our active approach to these commemorations and ceremonies will help wisdom and conscience stand alive and vigilant against the threats like anti-semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism.

Important responsibilities fall on to both States and the civil society in the struggle against those old maladies which we thought we had buried into the darkness of history since societies have progressed.

In this regard, the way to treat these phenomena that threathen healthy functioning of societies is to teach future generations the Holocaust, the most tragic level of racism and discrimination unless it is averted, to raise awareness in the society, not to forget, to remember.

Within this scope, an open, pluralistic and inclusive society based on human rights and

empathy to the other and tolerance for diversity are required.

In my concluding remarks, I would like to share with you a telling excerpt from the diary of Yitskhok Rudashevski who was one of the millions who lost their lives during the Holocaust,

published years ago in Shalom as part of an article series titled “Letters to My Grandchild”.

And I quote:

“I cannot think of anything: neither what I lost, nor what I will lose, nor what future holds for me. I do not see the streets that I wander or the people passing by me, I just feel I am tired of this life. I am cut to the heart by the insults committed against us. I feel my freedom and my home are stolen from me. I am torn apart from everything that is dear to me“.

Esteemed guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, I would like to thank the Ankara University which organised and hosted this meaningful ceremony, I commemorate once again, in your presence, all those who were brutally massacred during the Holocaust and I sincerely wish tragedies like the Holocaust will never happen again.


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