The year 2015 was marked by the 70th anniversary of liberations of the camps and by the presence in our company of the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, who came to help commemorate all of the victims and show reverence before this monument confirming the specific location of the Dachau concentration camp.
However, in addition to that emotional moment and celebration of peace, the year was marked by renewed acts of terrorism and barbarianism in a number of countries.
Innocent victims were murdered, as they were under Nazism, and for the same reasons. Due to religious prejudice, against Jews or “non-believers”. For political reasons, aimed at journalists, and at people in side-walk cafés, on holiday, in metros and airports, or listening to music, who symbolised a Western cultural model rejected outright by the enemy. All of these innocent people were murdered in the name of a totalitarian ideology, of a radical Salafist sect, of a new form of Nazism.
Our ancestors experienced the horrors of Dachau for trying to stand up to Hitler's regime, for defending freedom in their various countries and for their religious beliefs. We cannot help but perceive that, even if the faces have changed, fanaticism and barbarianism can recur in human history, with the same crimes: after extermination in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and pre-planned death by exhaustion and starvation at Dachau, we now have these savage killings and decapitations.
This grim turn of events should make us stop to reflect and face up to reality as we stand before this monument engraved with the words “Never again.” What are we doing to uphold the oath of our elders who escaped from the “brown terror”?
Under the Nazi stranglehold, some found sufficient strength to mount an armed resistance movement in Germany and the countries around it. Many were deported to Dachau and some are present here with us today.
In this new struggle, for those of us touched by the memory of Dachau, the types of action to be taken are obviously different. However, the will to stand up for freedom must be our guide in fighting indifference and relegation to oblivion, and our path must be lighted by vigilance, as well as recourse to history and education.
The actions we can take are numerous and have many forms.
In concrete terms, for example this means denouncing the decisions of the entertainment industry when it uses former Nazi camps as sites for virtual battles on the Internet. The reaction to this by the press, the Memorial and the International Dachau Committee was a success.
In the reigning climate of fear and selfishness due to the recent arrivals of refugees, we have also been called on to reaffirm the truth in the face of falsehoods about where and how they were received, specifically at Dachau.
History reminds us that people from all walks of life and all countries extended a hand to the Jews and helped them escape arrest and death. In our world of distrust for those who are not one of us, this model of the seekers of justice has inspired the creation of many refugee assistance groups, in Dachau and in Bavaria.
Our reference to history can now draw on the annotations required to explain the book “Mein Kampf”, and provide for close analysis of the dangers of its treatise of hate. That must enable each of us to reflect independently, without falling prey to the incantations of the dogmatists emerging throughout Europe.
However, our main stimulus in recalling the commitment to “Never again” is obviously the Memorial to the camp at Dachau. With more than a million visitors per year, most of them schoolchildren, this place serves as a basis for historical research, discussions and personal reflection. Its department of archives has been praised and recognised internationally. Its pedagogical methods are refined so as to provide high-quality and accurate information, without undue simplification. And it benefits from the support of many volunteers, religious communities and numerous associations.
This same concern for careful thought and wariness currently underlies the courageous initiatives of a number of cities in confronting the sombre pages of their own history, with rehabilitation of the satellite camps, grounds of human suffering outside of Dachau, such as Mühldorf, Landsberg Kaufering and Allach.
Along with these local activities, the same spirit can be found at the international level. The IDC’s vocation continues, and its efforts in terms of remembrance, in addition to its close cooperation with the Memorial, extends to the various nations of its representatives, deportees and the families of former residents of Dachau. As we pass the torch to the next generation, they must take up the call to combat intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism and extremists, exclusion from society based on religious creed, and to promote equality between men and women, and respect for our fellow human beings, starting with equal treatment of women.
These are the many tangible and consistent actions which demonstrate that our struggle to ensure that “Never Again”, a fragile and ever-threatened goal, is pursued by an increasing number of people with suitable means, and that those efforts must continue.
All of these undertakings done under the Duty of Remembrance are hard to measure but nonetheless not in vain. A comforting sign is the influx of young people, who show emotion in their participation in these commemorative events, such as today in Dachau, at Hersbruck in January, and yesterday at the centennial anniversary of Verdun.
Along with the importance of increased awareness, we must add the value of commemoration.
We will now enact that solemn gesture by having representatives from institutions and associations of every country place more than one hundred bouquets of flowers at the base of the monument.
This reverence to the memory of all the victims, and to the 41,000 who died at Dachau, today takes on its full meaning since, more than ever, it links the past to the present in the face of these new crimes against humanity that must be denounced as such.
Thank you for your attention.