Speech by Jean-Michel Thomas

74th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp. May 5, 2019.

Jean Michel thomas20160114 125704The 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.

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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