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Till minne av Raoul Wallenberg

17 jan 2019

Det har paserat 74 år sedan Raoul Wallenberg fördes bort av den sovjetiska röda armén. Varje år samlas vi den 17 januari för att minnas och hedra Raoul Wallenberg och de värderingar som han stod upp för.

Nedan det tal  som ambassadör Niclas Trouvé höll vid minnesceremonin i Budapest XIII-distrikt den 17 januari 2019.

Mr. Mayor, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends,

Once again we gather here in this street corner to commemorate our hero Raoul Wallenberg. For me it is the fifth and last time to do so. I always consider this one of the most important events during the year. Not because of the history itself. But because of the responsibility to remember the lessons from the past as we look to our own future and that of our children.

A few days ago, I visited Yad Vashem, the Museum for the Holocaust remembrance in Jerusalem. Anyone who ever visited this beautiful place cannot have avoided being deeply moved and touched by the stories of the survivors and eye-witnesses. I think the greatness of Yad Vashem is that it tells the truth, the full truth. It doesn’t hide or steer away from the facts. It doesn’t try to rewrite what really happened. Instead it attempts to explain how it could happen. And it tries to describe what happened by using the different perspectives of all of those involved.

First, the testimonies of the Victims - making them tangible and understandable by telling the stories of each human being and about their lives.

Secondly, the ideologies and methods of the Oppressors or Perpetrators are explained through facts, documents, objects, images, films and testimonies.

Thirdly, the often-forgotten role of the silent majority, The Bystanders or the Indifferent. All those who were gradually brainwashed or mislead so that in the end they let the unthinkable happen - and ultimately became victims themselves and brought their entire countries with them in the downfall.

And finally, those who stood up, those who showed enormous courage and compassion, who did not hesitate to sacrifice everything for their fellow human beings. Those who became heroes and martyrs - people like Raoul Wallenberg. Those awarded the highest of honours as the Righteous among the Nations.

When listening to the stories of the victims, I was often forced to sit down and take a deep breath and dry some tears from my eyes. The unimaginable suffering and endurance, the partitioning of families, children being separated from their parents, the randomized selection of life or death, the systematic terror, the violence and murdering at an industrial scale. And in the end the enormous loss to all mankind and to humanity. I was struck by the narrator’s words in my ear-phones: ”Each victim was a world on their own. Only by understanding the extent of life we somewhat begin to fathom the extent of the loss. The Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel who was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz with his family in 1944 described it in the following way: ”Strip! Fast! Hold out your belts and shoes... for us, this was the true equality: nakedness, shivering with cold.”

Then the perspective of those responsible for these hideous crimes against humanity. How did it all begin? How was it possible? And the frightful insight that it was all man-made and that it started by a deliberate plan to distort facts and to build an alternative truth. A devious plot to gain and hold on to power by identifying common enemies, demonizing them, de-humanizing them. Fear-mongering. Hatred. Already in his book Mein Kampf, which was published already in 1925, Adolf Hitler described his devious and disastrous plan. I quote: ”At whom must propaganda be aimed? Always aim at the masses! The receptive capability of the wider masses is quite restricted... therefore, the propaganda subject should be limited to only a few points. These should be processed and sent back to the masses as slogans, again and again, until the last listener imagines to himself what is favored.”

One of the texts of the exhibit at Yad Vashem explains: ”Within a few months of coming to power the Nazis abolished democracy in Germany and turned the country into a one-party, centralized police state. This transformation included reshaping social institutions according to Nazi ideology. The state apparatus was staffed with appointees loyal to the regime. Media censorship was introduced, and only those who were willing to toe the Nazi party line remained. The regime reshaped culture, education, law, and religion in the spirit of Nazism. Youngsters joined the Hitler Youth Movement and were taught to sacrifice themselves for their leader and the Reich”.

Here in Hungary, following the occupation in March 1944, the efficiency of what had by now become a fully-fledged structure for systematic extinction, was proven with astonishing cruelty. From mid-May to early July, the Germans, assisted by Hungarian police, deported about 437,000 Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most were murdered immediately upon arrival. From October 1944 onward, with the rise of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party, thousands of Budapest Jews in these very streets where we stand were shot on the banks of the Danube and tens of thousands were sent on death marches toward the Austrian border.

The role of the bystanders, the silent majority, is also well illustrated at Yad Vashem. Martin Niemüller, a German Protestant Pastor, told this story: ”They came for the communists, and I did not object, for I was not a communist. Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not object, for I was not a socialist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not object, for I was not a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to object”. Another Auschwitz survivor, Avraham Levite, wrote: ”All of us dying here amidst the arctic indifference of the nations, are forgotten by the world and by life...”. Today we know the shameful truth. That much of the atrocities were in fact known outside of Germany. Still, very little was done by very many to stop it. Ships with Jewish refugees were barred from entering the harbors and sent back over the seas.

This is the backdrop against which Raoul Wallenberg, and many other brave heroes, entered the stage and managed to save thousands of lives - and ultimately sacrificing his own life after being abducted by the Soviet Red Army on this very day 74 years ago.

Another one of those who reached out to make a difference was the Hungarian Imre Bathory, like Raoul Wallenberg also one of the Righteous among the Nations. Bathory noted the following: I know that when I stand before God on Judgement Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain - where were you when your brother´s blood was crying out to God?”

When you exit the Yad Vashem, the words from the Holy Bible (1 Joel, 2-3) stares in your face from a stone pillar: ”Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation!”

Dear friends, that is why we are here tonight. To remember. To never forget. To tell the truth of what happened. But not least to make sure that something even remotely similar never happens again. And let us not fool ourselves that our times are all that different - or that human nature for that sake would have changed in less than 100 years. The truth is that it could happen again if we let it happen.

But it is not just the task of museum curators to tell the truth and nothing but the truth - albeit that is of course extremely important indeed. in fact, we all share this enormous responsibility to prevent that history repeats itself. The best protection is to respect the very basis of our universal human rights, that all human beings are created equal and havs equal value and equal rights. We need to stand up against any attempt to divide or degrade one group against another - We need to protect our fragile and threatened democracies every single day and never take them for granted.

Let us all seek inspiration from Raoul Wallenberg. Let us all be courageous human rights defenders in our own daily lives in our own ways. Let us follow the wise motto of another Nobel laureate, Shimon Peres: ”The most careful thing is to dare”.

I thank you for coming here in the middle of the cold and dark winter. Ito keep us warm we brought the last stock of the Swedsih traditional glögg – the forralt bor – that I hope you will enjoy!

Thank you!

Senast uppdaterad 15 feb 2018, 09.43