“Today, we honour the memory of the millions of people - men, women and children - brutally murdered seven decades ago for the simple fact of being Jewish, Roma, Slav or homosexual, because they had disabilities, or were Jehovah’s witnesses or political opponents.
I visited Auschwitz a few months ago, and I have a simple message for all those who deny that the Holocaust happened, or who engage in anti-Semitism or other forms of religious, racial or ethnic intolerance or discrimination: visit this historic and terrible place. It is a truly humbling and harrowing experience to feel the chill of evil and immense tragedy that permeates its walls and grounds. It is important to feel -- not just to know in an abstract way -- where such behaviour can lead.
Each year, on 27 January, we take time to remember the victims of the Holocaust and to reflect on how it came about, and how the world at large failed so dismally to prevent it. The Holocaust stands as a searing reminder of the perils of discrimination and intolerance, and of just how powerful and deadly the incitement to racial hatred can be. It also should make us more aware of the importance of reacting quickly and firmly to manifestations of discrimination, hostility or violence against individuals and entire communities, wherever they occur.
In the decades since the end of World War II, and the revelation of the full horror of the Holocaust, the flames of hatred and persecution have risen again to consume other countries, people and societies – from the killing fields of Cambodia, to the forests of Srebrenica and the hills of Rwanda.
Even today, in many places around the world, people are persecuted or discriminated against because of their race, religion, origin, sexual orientation or political opinions, and in countries such as Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, people are still being maimed and slaughtered because of the group to which they belong.
We need to stop turning a blind eye to the warning signs of serious human rights violations whenever and wherever they appear. That much, at least, we can do to honour all those millions murdered en masse by their fellow human beings, who attempted to justify war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide with hate-inspired political philosophies and propaganda. We must also be aware that the seeds of such hatred are often sown in times of peace as well in times of war.”
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