A Commemoration of the centenary of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth
Good afternoon. Thank you Mr. Eskil Franck; Prime Minister Reinfeldt; Greetings to TRH Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel who are here with us today…
I am grateful that you have asked me to join you in this square as we commemorate the centenary of Raoul Wallenberg’s birth, and remember the tragedy of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust was a tragedy of unspeakable dimensions.
It is a wound that never heals, a pain that time has not diminished.
How can one forget the millions killed; how can one forget the faces of the survivors of Auschwitz, liberated 66 years ago today.
But we are also here today to celebrate a man who put his own life at risk to save others, refusing to stand aside in silence before the violent currents of hatred.
As the atrocities reached greater and greater heights, so did Wallenberg’s determination to defend the lives of the Jews of Budapest, placing them under the protection of the Swedish Crown.
By the end of the war, 120,000 Jews were left in Budapest.
Thousands amongst them owe their lives, directly and indirectly, to Raoul Wallenberg.
His acts of compassion, conscience and courage are a testament to the difference that each one of us can make, raising our voices and resisting injustice in the name, and in defense of, our common humanity.
“Never again,” we said after the war. And this year we celebrate the centenary of Wallenberg’s birth.
We have made some progress during that century.
The United Nations was created to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” bringing us together for a better world.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights set out a shared vision of humanity in which each person, no matter what race, color, religion or sex would be protected by equal and inalienable rights.
We created international tribunals and the International Criminal Court to deliver on the promise that no atrocity would ever go unpunished.
The emerging norm of the responsibility to protect is gradually putting an end to the era when sovereignty would be used as a shield behind which governments could hide and brutalize their own people.
Let us make this day, then, one in which we learn from, and remember, the past and its lessons.
The Living History Forum is part of this invaluable effort to preserve the memories and experiences of the past for generations to come.
Equally important, it serves as a platform to educate and mobilize civil society to prevent acts of genocide and warn of the perils of hatred, prejudice, and most importantly, indifference.
As the German theologian Martin Niemoller once said: “First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.”
The experiences of the past teach us that indifference, the false belief that one need not worry about injustice against someone else, is actually injustice‘s greatest ally.
Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy is that each of us now knows we have the power to hold back the tide of injustice, instead of standing in silent witness until it engulfs us.
Let our own, collective conscience mirror his. Let us be forever vigilant to detect the first signs of hatred and intolerance in our communities, and forever vigorous in confronting them.
Let us educate our children to defend and respect one another, and to prevent such inhumanity in the world.
Let us make this day one of universal remembrance in which we reaffirm the commitments we made amidst the ashes of war: to promote and protect human rights, peace and security for all.