Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Comité International de Dachau and the Dachau Camp Association, may I say how pleased we are to see you here today. I welcome Bernd Sibler, State Secretary in the Bavarian government, the representatives of various diplomatic missions, local authorities, religious denominations and political parties as well as former comrades, especially camp survivors of many different nationalities.
The year 2013 is replete with anniversaries, although few of them are of the type that one would really wish to commemorate: it is 80 years since the Nazis came to power and the Reichstag was burnt down, 75 years since Kristallnacht, 70 years since the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto and its suppression. And 80 years ago, on 22nd March 1933, the Nazis opened their first concentration camp here at Dachau. Just days after it received its first batch of prisoners, some of them were already being tortured and killed. These acts of violence and murder were committed with impunity, and the inmates were totally subject to the whim of their captors.
But that was just the beginning of a process by which more than 200,000 people from all over Europe were brought to Dachau and its satellite camps to be deprived of their liberty, tortured and exploited. Approximately 41,500 people were to die at the hands of the murderous Nazi regime during the twelve-year period that Dachau and its satellite camps were in existence. We must never forget.
Sadly, it is the case that we need not look back exclusively into the past to remind ourselves of such crimes and injustice, but that we are still confronted with similar examples in the media almost on a daily basis. It is shocking that a small group of neo-Nazis could escape the attention of the security agencies over a period of years and carry out a series of assaults and murders without being apprehended. Even now, a full 80 years after Hitler came to power, current events in Germany show that the extreme right-wing still draws the inspiration for its dehumanising acts of violence from Nazi ideology.
It is incomprehensible to me that the NPD, whose aim is to establish a state based on the Hitlerian model, is still not prohibited by law. I call on the federal government to create the conditions under which the defeat of such a move in the Federal Constitutional Court is not repeated. With the NPD continuing to function and to receive state funding based on the number of votes it receives, the taxpayer is effectively financing an organisation which actively seeks to undermine our democracy.
Bans and arrests would certainly be in order, but even a response such as this would not be enough to tackle the underlying pathological ideologies. We have seen how, even in our prisons, it is not possible to prevent the formation of fascist gangs.
We cannot rely on our politicians to counter right-wing slogans, incitement, rallies, violence and terror. This is a duty that falls on all of us. Today, no one has the old excuse of saying "I didn't know what was going on" or "That doesn't concern me". We have a collective responsibility to ensure that we live in a society that respects human values.
We cannot duck the question: "What can or must we do to prevent our vulnerable young people from being led astray by a destructive creed?"
I do not claim to know the answer either.The ranks of the survivors have greatly thinned. That makes it all the more important to be proactive in maintaining our tradition of remembrance, reminding the present generation of past mistakes, protecting our freedom and upholding the rule of law.