Speech by Ambassador Wittig commemorating the Holocaust

Jan 24, 2011

(as delivered)

Holocaust survivors,


Ladies and gentlemen,

66 years ago, almost to the day, on 27th January 1945 allied troops finally reached the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When the soldiers entered the camp, they discovered the unspeakable atrocities committed under the command of German Nazis.

It is these horrors of the holocaust that are inextricably linked with the German past. And it is these horrors that make me speak to you today with humility and emotion.

We pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. And we commemorate the victims of the genocide of the Sinti and Roma, of other minorities, of prisoners of war, dissidents and many others from all across Europe.

It was under the command of German Nazis that so many were killed in the gas chambers and burned in the crematorium ovens at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Millions of others were barbarically tortured, brutally murdered through forced labor or pseudo-medical experiments, executed and gassed.

The name of my country will always be remembered for these despicable crimes against humanity. We must not and will not abdicate our historic and moral responsibility for the Holocaust.


Ladies and gentlemen,

the number of direct witnesses of the Holocaust diminishes every year – and with it the knowledge that unspeakable evil may develop even in ‘civilized’ societies and may start with the abuse of human rights, hate propaganda or xenophobia. We have the duty to remain vigilant against all attempts to discriminate, attack or insult people on the basis of their race, creed, color, origin, gender or sexual orientation.

I am profoundly convinced that we all have the duty to carry the memory of the Holocaust on to future generations. And it is the International Auschwitz Committee that deserves our deep appreciation for having organised the exhibition we open today.


Ladies and gentlemen,

„…the memories live on…“ – all the sadness and shame that we feel by looking at the drawings of the unknown prisoner “MM” is in this title. And at the same time, this sadness and shame instill our deep desire to pass on what we feel – and to pass on what is remembered: The memories of the Holocaust must never be lost!


Ladies and gentlemen,

the exhibition testifies to the bridge that was built between the young generation and the survivors. Young people from Poland and Germany got in touch with survivors, together they visited Auschwitz and preserved and restored the former concentration camp. Now the young people are the contemporary witnesses of the witnesses of the Holocaust.

Let me add a personal note: I was 17 years old when my father took me on a trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. That visit had an impact on me that I can hardly overestimate. From that moment on, I looked at the world in a different way.

To the young people that are here today, I like to say: You took part in one of the emotionally most challenging endeavours. Yet I think, it was also one of the most rewarding. In what you did and in what you show – you truly reflect what we strive for: not to forget and to keep the memories alive.

To the survivors I’d like to say: We are deeply honored and moved to have you with us today. Your are the symbols of human endurance, the symbols of the redemptive power of remembrance and also the symbols of hope.

© GermanyUN