Mauthausen Appeal of the International Committees of the Nazi Extermination and Concentration Camps ahead of the European Parliament elections 23-26 May 2019
On May 5th, 2019, on the occasion of the international ceremonies commemorating the liberation of the Mauthausen Nazi Camp in Austria, the Representatives of the International Committees of the Nazi Extermination and Concentration Camps climbed the 186 stairs of the stairway of death, emblem of the Mauthausen Camp, in order to reaffirm their attachment to the protection of Memorial sites and the public's free access to them.
Today, they would like to launch the following appeal:
“As guardians of the memory of the prisoners of the nazi extermination and concentration camps and the values they defended – often to their deaths –,
We, the representatives of the International Committees of the Nazi Extermination and Concentration Camps,
Profoundly worried by the nationalist, populist, and xenophobic policies enacted by a number of governments of the states of our continent,
Considering that these policies are in fundamental contradiction with the spirit of the different oaths made by the detainees upon their liberation, in particular by those of Mauthausen and Buchenwald,
Evaluating the grave threat that these policies represent for our collective destiny because of their appeals to violence, to hate, and to antidemocratic practices,
img_00242 to img_00375 for KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau, Bernhard Krause
img_8111 to 8206; for CID, Fred Geerling
Speech by Jean-Michel Thomas
74th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. May 5, 2019.
The threats to democracy in Europe should be cause of concern. The expression of dissatisfaction, discontent and frustration has indeed changed the political landscape. Parliamentary representations have evolved and concerns are emerging for the coming elections in Europe. This international context is fragile, with the inadmissible recrudescence of anti-Semitism and radical Islamism always present.
But we are also threatened by the relativisation of Nazism and of its policy of extermination in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, through work and starvation in Dachau and the other camps. We all know the despicable qualifications used to negate these 12 years of Nazism, beginning with the construction of the Dachau concentration camp in 1933.
Faced with the desire to ignore or distort the past, we need to preserve the history of this era, and remember all the victims and those who contributed to other perspectives than a brown and booted Europe.
As such, the survivors of Dachau were among the first Europeans. In the name of ‘Plus Jamais Ça’ (Never Again), faithful to the memory of all their companions in misery, they wanted their unimaginable stories to be told, to be believed. Their wishes are honoured and the Foundation, the Memorial and their many volunteers will continue to tell their stories. We thank them again.
But the lesson of this history is not yet known to everyone and therein lies a danger.
Relativizing and bracketing Nazism by caricatures that ignore reality, compromises the transmission of history and its lessons to be learned. This will make it impossible for the new generations to get to know and understand the history of the tragedies of the twentieth century and their complexity.
In this context, in the presence of real hostility, our gathering and our reflection here today takes on its full meaning at this international ceremony which purpose and meaning are worth recalling.
Our procession has just fervently crossed the entire site of the camp, preceded by The death book, wherein the names of 40,000 deaths in both the Dachau camp and its outpost camps.
The participating last survivors were surrounded by the national flags of all the camp prisoners. The flags were carried by their descendants or by young people who want to keep the memory alive.
The last moving part of this procession will take place in front of this monument, where we will take a bow.
This touching gathering culminates in the laying of wreaths and reflection, to honour the dead who opposed and fought against Nazism. The first arrivals to the new Dachau camp, political opponents and Jews, had one thing in common with all the detainees who followed them in the following 12 years. They were opponents of this regime, opposed to this ideology based on racism and xenophobia and to the regime that was chasing them in all the European countries at war, for their battles, their beliefs, their opinions or their orientations.
This repression of the opponents in this first Dachau concentration camp, which became the "mother house" and learning model at the school of violence to all the other camps, makes this site the symbol of the Resistance to Nazism.
Today, laying a wreath at the foot of this monument for the victims of the Dachau concentration camp and its outlying camps, has a special and universal value that transcends the boundaries and disagreements on the immediate management of our democratic societies.
We are laying a wreath to honour all the victims, to salute the ideal and the martyrdom of those who resisted and sacrificed their lives to fight this ideology. And finally to recognize the true aspect of Nazism and its millions of deaths.
This symbolic gesture, understood by all, has an obvious significance. This gesture of union is of course open to all, no one excluded, in respect and fellowship. And it is rendered, according to the traditional ritual, by the representatives of the federal and Bavarian institutions, religious communities, various nations and their memorial associations and all the political parties and associations.
This international gathering in reflection is therefore a bearer of hope. Historical reality cannot be denied, ignored, transformed or softened. It challenges us, we must remember and respect it. Some deny this evidence and reject this approach. They can only be devoured by their ideological contradictions.
Jean-Michel Thomas President of the CID
Stanislav Zámečník Research Award of the Comité International de Dachau
In 2019, the Comité International de Dachau (CID) will again award the Stanislav Zámečník Research Award. The CID’s mission is to preserve the memory of the crimes in the Dachau concentration camp; it is an international association consisting of the organizations of former inmates of the Dachau concentration camp from 25 countries and their families. The Comité International de Dachau donates the study prize in memory of the victims of the National Socialist concentration and extermination camps, in particular in the Dachau concentration camp. The award has been given every two years since 2017; 6,000 euros are available for this.
Special exhibition at The Dachau Memorial
On April 27th, the Dachau Memorial opened the special exhibition "Names not Numbers" - Dutch Political Prisoners in Dachau Concentration Camp. Sydney Weith, 21 year old, talked about former inmate Ernst Sillem, whom she met when she was 16. One could almost feel the close connection with the guest of honor sitting in front of her.
Speeches at the award ceremony
"Late April 1945, a train with nearly 3,000 deportees from the Mühldorf complex, an annex camp of the Dachau concentration camp, stopped in the station of the small town of Poing, only about 20 km from here,
The evacuation of these camps had begun shortly before. As, from Poing on, the railway line was no longer usable, the train remained blocked in Poing station
At first the atmosphere - at least for the local population – was of a deceptive calm.
A passer-by later recalled: "It was a beautiful sunny day and the SS were sitting on the embankment watching the prisoners. At about the same time, here in Munich, began the crucial phase of the "Freiheitsaktion Bayern" ("Bavaria Liberty Action"). The exact link between the insurgency attempt and the events taking place in Poing, is difficult to reconstruct
Any way, in the afternoon of April 27 or 28, the rumor that the war was over, circulated among the SS troops who were watching the train. Because of that, many SS guards left their posts, the doors were opened and the surprised prisoners thought they were free
They began to look for food and for that they also went to the village. The inhabitants later remembered that the SS guards informed them about the presumed end of the war and the release of concentration camp prisoners.
But when after about an hour,in Poing, it was clear that the news of the end of the war were false, the situation degenerated: suddenly, prisoners were no longer considered as being released, but as fugitives."
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