Rede von Herbert Winter zum Holocaust-Gedenktag im Yehudi Menuhin Forum

28.01.2019, Yehudi Menuhin Forum

[Es gilt das gesprochene Wort.]

Normally I would start such a speech with a greeting of all the prominent people in the hall, presidents, excellencies, rabbis. But today I don’t want to do this except that I do want to greet and warmly welcome the people amongst us who survived the Holocaust and do so much to keep the memory of what they have gone through alive. But apart from this special greeting I want to greet all of you with the words:

Dear fellow humans,

For that is it what we all really are: humans, human beings.

No title is really important or makes any one of us better or more important than the others. And no title could help the millions of victims in the Nazi concentration camps and in the mass-shooting pits. There, all people were the same: human beings.

And they were victims of an incredible crime: Not only did the Nazis want to kill their victims, they also tried to dehumanize them. To deny them their humanity, they called their victims «subhuman», «pigs» or «parasites». They tried to kill them twice: they wanted to kill their bodies, and they also wanted to kill their souls and their dignity. Sadly, they succeeded with the first goal.

But we will not allow the second goal to succeed. We will always remember them. And we will always remember them as what they were: human beings.

And I am deeply concerned that nowadays this remembrance is more important than ever. We have seen in Europe, but also elsewhere, a dramatic rise not only of anti-Semitism, but also of other forms of racism, as well as of a general misanthropy. People are insulted, violently attacked or even killed for having a different religion, a different skin colour or just a different opinion. The political opponent is now the political enemy. To say it cynically: Hate speech is in!

A lot of these developments start with words, online, in the commentary sections of newspapers, in blogs, on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and in chat groups. But more and more we see acts following these words. In the most painful way in Paris last March and in Pittsburgh last October. There people were killed not for what they do, but simply for what they are: Jews.

So, we must fight the origin of this hatred. And it doesn’t matter if it's hatred against Jews or black people, against Muslims or gay people, against political opponents or just people with a different opinion.

We must fight all forms of hatred that starts online and spreads from there out into our streets, our schools and our society. And this fight is not only a task for the state, and politics, but for society as a whole and for each of us individually.

We must fight this hatred because we remember. We remember the Holocaust. But we remember also all the other crimes committed by the Nazis and their local collaborators. We remember Auschwitz, Treblinka and Sobibor. We remember Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Mauthausen. And we remember all the other places with and without names.

We remember all Jewish children, women and men who perished all over Europe. But we also remember all the other victims who didn’t fit in the inhuman world view of a criminal, diabolic ideology that terrorized Germany and Europe for more than a decade.

And the best way to remember them is to remember them as humans. As loving husbands and fathers, as caring mothers and wives, as laughing and promising children, as wise and friendly grandparents.

Howe often do we hear «Enough of that. That’s history. Let’s focus on the future.»

But, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, if we stop to remember the victims of that period and if we stop to see and understand what the result of hatred can be, then sadly we will have to face and remember new victims all the time. That’s why people all over the world remember Auschwitz as a symbol for too many other places where humans treated other humans in a way that never should have happened and never must happen again.

«The road from civilization to barbarism is short.» This is a quote from my father-in-law. He witnessed the «Reichspogromnacht» as a teenager in Berlin, but luckily, he managed to flee to Switzerland afterwards. How true, the road from civilisation to barbarism is very short. And it is paved with the countless victims of inhuman ideologies.

That’s why we must stand together against all hatred and misanthropy, online and in real life. We must remember, fight and hope, so that we, mankind, will never walk down this road again.

I thank you.


Diese Rede hat Herbert Winter am 28. Januar 2019 anlässlich des Internationalen Tags des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Holocaust auf Einladung der Israelischen und Italienischen Botschaften im Yehudi Menuhin Forum in Bern gehalten.