“This year, we mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in unusual circumstances. While we are confronted with one of the biggest crises of our century, we must not let our attention waver and allow the memory of Holocaust victims to be misused or insulted”, said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović.
“Reports have consistently warned against rising antisemitic feelings and manifestations in Europe in recent years. The situation has been compounded by the increase of antisemitic rhetoric especially on the Internet and on social media platforms, from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Minorities, including Jews, have been the target of hate speech and COVID-19 denial became another opportunity for new ways to deny and distort the Holocaust.
There are no easy solutions to the continued upsurge of antisemitic sentiment and Holocaust revisionism. However, there are concrete steps that member states can take to strengthen their response to antisemitism.
There is, in the first place, a need to better counter disinformation. The Holocaust happened also because dehumanising speech was disguised as truth. The false ideas and stereotyped discourse used to manipulate populations eventually turned into lethal action. It is therefore crucial that the historical truth of the Holocaust is more actively put to the forefront and that states act more resolutely against the propagation of disinformation.
Education, both formal and informal, plays a pivotal role. School textbooks and awareness raising work at national and local levels must be more explicit about the impact of Holocaust denial, distortion or hate speech on victims, on the broader Jewish community, and on our societies as a whole.
Public discourse must also change. Politicians should strongly and consistently condemn antisemitic rhetoric and the authorities should withdraw all financial and other forms of support by public bodies from political parties or other organisations that use hate speech or fail to sanction its use by their members. Member states should improve their legislation against hate speech and implement it fully.
The Holocaust was a horrific tragedy. In these difficult moments, it is our responsibility to keep our moral compass untainted and guard the truth about the Holocaust intact. We must continue to commemorate it and never stop learning the human stories of victims and survivors, keeping their memory in the conscience of present and future generations, as a beacon for a Europe of equal rights and dignity for all.”