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International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Strasbourg , 

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1945 to 2010 is 65 years. Almost a lifetime.

Time is pressing. Many of the witnesses who survived the Shoah are no longer with us. But we must remember their testimonies, and keep alive their memory.

Marek Edelman died in October 2009. He was the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of April 1943. This freedom fighter, who symbolised Jewish resistance, always stressed two fundamental points:

Every victim of the Holocaust is equally worthy to be honoured as a victim. The resistance fighters killed in action and the children who died in their mothers' arms in the gas chamber experienced the same horror and deprival of their right to life by the Nazi regime.

Crimes against humanity did not end after the Nuremberg trials. The combat will never be over. Human rights will always be vulnerable to encroachments. We must never drop our guard.

I recall the words of the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who said that man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. Vigilance is still needed, now and in the future.

The Council of Europe was established on lessons of injustice. The leaders of Europe brought about a set of unique institutions which rendered recourse to war unacceptable as a political tool. The co-operation, transparency and integration promoted by the Council of Europe are today unique means of securing and promoting human rights, the rule of law and democracy.

Europe has become a place where people can build their lives instead of lose their lives.

Today, we commemorate the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 65 years after the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps were liberated by Soviet troops.

It has been said that life can only be understood backwards but must be lived forwards.

Europe has moved forward. We look back to understand and to learn. We have learned that we must never forget. Learned that we must always educate, always safeguard individual memories within our collective memory, and always protect and foster our democratic, humanitarian values.

We must never forget the past. We owe this to the victims, and we owe it to ourselves.