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January 19, 2021

National Day of Commemorating the Holocaust in Romania: President Iohannis, U.S. Ambassador honour the memory of the victims

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Thursday that the temptations of populism and racism risk being revived against the background of the refugee crisis and underlined that the European states have the duty to reject them.

President Iohannis: We must reject temptations of populism, racism

“Now, when thousands of refugees knock on our continent’s doors, the temptations of populism and racism risk being revived. Together with the states of Europe, we have the duty to reject them. I am convinced we can overcome this complicated situation together and successfully cope with it”, Iohannis said at an event on the occasion of the National Day of Commemorating the Holocaust in Romania.

The president, speaking at the event held at the Monument of the Victims of the Holocaust in Romania, underlined that any form of intolerance, racism, hatred and discrimination are threats to democracy.

He stressed it was for the first time he was coming to the Memorial in his capacity of the Romanian president and voiced hope that the future Romanian heads of state would come back there so as to remind everybody that the Holocaust is unique and cannot be forgotten.

“This place was by no means accidentally chosen, it is located at the heart of Bucharest and near a public institution. It has the very mission to emphasise the responsibility of the Romanian state in the inhuman acts, based on ethnic and race grounds, committed in the years of World War Two”, Iohannis said, adding that the Holocaust had been concealed to the Romanians in the communist years.

The head of state pointed out Romania is at present a country having made very important progress to recognizing and taking responsibility for the Holocaust.

“It was a difficult process, but we have proved we have fully assumed the lesson of the past. We have chosen to be vigilant, to prevent and combat any budding form of hatred, discrimination and offence to the memory of the victims by negating or minimizing the Jewish genocide. We have with responsibility chosen to defend the civil freedoms day by day, by law and by resorting to justice, not only by book. That is why I can assure you that such acts as those having taken place in those troubled years are no longer possible in Romania today”, Iohannis said.

Also attending the event were the Speaker of the Deputies’ Chamber Valeriu Zgonea, Foreign Minister Bodgan Aurescu, presidential advisors, parliamentarians – among whom deputy Aurel Vainer, representing the Jewish community, as well as U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm, Russian ambassador Oleg Malginov and Director of Elie Wiesel Institute Alexandru Florian.

U.S. Ambassador praises the measures taken by Romania on acknowledging the Holocaust

“We are gathered here today to commemorate the Romanian victims of the Holocaust, the colossal act of barbarity and murder that was unprecedented in scale. With certitude and determination, governments and people harnessed the terrible forces of hatred and intolerance into a destructive machine aimed at exterminating an entire people and culture. Genocide was its sole purpose,” the U.S. Ambassador told the solemn gathering.

“This day also marks the anniversary of the forced deportation of Romanian Jews to Transnistria. This act, authorized by the Antonescu regime, began one of the most horrific phases of Romania’s history, not only for its Jews but also for its Roma and other minorities. Hundreds of thousands of people perished. These victims were not faceless or anonymous. Each one was someone’s father, mother, son, daughter, friend, loved one,” Hans Klemm emphasized.

“We are here today to remember and to mourn these victims, to remember and to reject the barbarity of the Holocaust. Remembrance brings us strength. By remembering the horrors of the Holocaust, we can strive to prevent such atrocities in the future. For they should never be allowed to happen again,” he added.

“It is a challenge for any democracy to come to terms with a legacy of unspeakable cruelty. However, we must resist the temptation to hide from difficult truths. As Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has said, “to remember lends an ethical dimension to all endeavors and all aspirations.” Remembrance strengthens our people and our democratic institutions. Today, we remember the horror of the Holocaust so that we may never repeat it,” said Hans Klemm .

The U.S. Ambassador commended Romania for the steps you taken to recognize this tragic chapter in its history. “I urge all Romanians, particularly the young, to immerse themselves in this history, and to never forget,” Ambassador Klemm concluded.

Aurel Vainer stresses the tragedy lived by Jews and Roma had meant a constant persecution

Aurel Vainer, in turn, stressed this tragedy from World War Two lived by the Jews and Roma in Romania had meant a constant persecution by the state authorities.

He underscored that the Parliament passed laws on various measures aimed to set right the suffering from the Holocaust years.

At the end of the event, wreaths were laid on behalf of President Iohannis, Prime Minister Victor Ponta and several ministries and parties.

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