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Holocaust must not 'justify' division or hate, Macron says on 75th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation

French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020.
French President Emmanuel Macron takes part in a wreath-laying ceremony during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem on January 23, 2020. © Ronen Zvulun/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday told world leaders commemorating 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz that anti-Semitism is “once again rearing its violent head” but underscored that the Holocaust must not be used to "justify" hatred and division.

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Addressing more than 40 world leaders at the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remebrance Center in Jerusalem, Macron said that “in our history, anti-Semitism always preceded the weakening of democracy”. But, he noted, "no one has the right to invoke (those killed by the Nazis) to justify division or contemporary hatred".

The 42-year-old French leader spoke after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Vice President Mike Pence had both warned of perceived threats by Iran.

While Netanyahu said “there will not be another Holocaust”, he urged action against what he called "the tyrants of Tehran", comparing the threat of the Islamic Republic with that once posed by Nazi Germany.

"We have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet, a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state,” he said. "I call on all governments to join the vital effort of confronting Iran."

Pence struck a similar chord, and urged the world to “stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran", saying it is the only government in the world “that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy".

Tehran denies accusations of anti-Semitism, insisting that while it opposes the Jewish state and supports the Palestinian cause, it has no problem with Jewish people, including its own Jewish minority.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, proposed a summit of leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to "defend peace" in the face of global instability.

Thursday’s forum was the biggest international diplomatic gathering ever held in Israel, to remember the liberation of the World War II death camp where the Nazis killed more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews.

 

‘Industrial mass murder’

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that racist and anti-Semitic "spirits of evil are emerging in a new guise".

The German head of state told the gathering he bowed "in deepest sorrow" at the memory of "the industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity ... committed by my countrymen".

Looking at resurgent extremism and intolerance, he said, "Of course, our age is a different age. The words are not the same. The perpetrators are not the same. But it is the same evil."

"The spirits of evil are emerging in a new guise, presenting their anti-Semitic, racist, authoritarian thinking as an answer for the future, a new solution to the problems of our age."


About 100 Holocaust survivors were at the event in Jerusalem to pray for the dead and light a memorial torch.

Among them was Yona Amit, 81, who as a child spent the war hiding from the Nazis and lost family members, including her cousin.

"I exchanged shoes with him playing" shortly before he was captured, she recalled.

"They were straight away sent to Auschwitz. And of course my cousin, with my shoes: straight away up in the chimneys, in the gas chambers," she said.

"My shoes are in that big mound of shoes in Auschwitz, my shoes are there. I am here."

The ceremonies move on next Monday to the site in Poland of the Auschwitz camp, which was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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