September 19, 2013
Senate of the Republic of Mexico
Honorable Senator of Mexico, Alejandro Encinas; Director-General of Liaisons and Development with NGOs of the National Human Rights Commission, Claudia Fernández Jiménez; President of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, Miriam Cantú; Holocaust survivor Bedrich Steiner; Righteous Among the Nations, Salih Hardaga; Ambassador of Poland to Mexico, Her Excellency Anna Niewiadomska; Teacher of Teachers (Morei Morim) of Yad Vashem Mexico, Jaime Murow; Teacher of Teachers (Morei Morim) of Yad Vashem Mexico, Jaime Romanowsky; Special Ambassador of B'nai B'rith International, Dan Tartakovski; Counselor for Public Affairs of the German Embassy in Mexico, Christoph Breunig, good morning.
When we speak about the crimes committed by the Nazi regime, we must always keep in mind that they were not only committed against Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, the disabled, political opponents, and Jews, it was an atrocity perpetrated against the human family.
The Holocaust divided history into a before and after, and it left many lessons for humanity. Following the Holocaust commission, major changes as to the concept and protection of human rights and the application of justice and medical ethics took place. After the crimes committed by the Nazi regime, different international organizations were created with the purpose of protecting life, human dignity, and justice, and punishing the violation of these regardless of the country in which they are committed. Among these were the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. A new focus also emerged as to the Code of Medical Ethics; the terms “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” were classified in international criminal law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was issued.
At the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, we believe that if the Holocaust left so many lessons and changes with regards to human rights, then it is our duty that it be taught in primary schools, high schools, and as a case study in the universities of all countries.
The Holocaust as the paradigm of genocide was the result of an education based on antisemitism; it was the fruit of hatred, discrimination, prejudice, intolerance and cruelty. This genocide was the greatest defeat of global education in universities and schools, the product of political irrationality and insensitivity, and the inaction and silence of people who, upon learning of the crimes committed by the Nazi regime, chose to be passive and remain silent, thus becoming accomplices of the perpetrators.
For this genocide to have taken place, there was a systematic preparation and indoctrination based on the mistaken belief in the existence of a superior race.
Known by history as a capital crime, this genocide was committed with unfair advantage, in a premeditated and malicious manner, taking advantage of the helplessness of a people. Hitler industrialized death.
Many events made the Holocaust the paradigm of genocide, but today I want to go beyond the facts and figures of this barbarism. It is very important to analyze and reflect on the situations and actions that led to this genocide. That is, the values and ethical and moral principles that people who formed part of the Nazi regime gave up in order to be able to commit these crimes with such cruelty and indifference, and the values and human principles compromised by the political, academic, social and religious leaders, worldwide, who so passively witnessed the extermination of millions of lives, and nevertheless opted to stay comfortably inactive.
For this reason, the former Prime Minister of Israel in 1961, David Ben Gurion, expressed:
"Let world opinion know this, that not only Nazi Germany was responsible for the destruction of six million Jews of Europe. We want the nations of the world to know… and they should be ashamed."
The story of the survivors of different genocides is not a tragic event of the past, but rather the latent testimony of a living story, one that is full of valuable teachings and lessons for current and future generations regarding the need to break the silence and counteract intolerance, prejudice, antisemitism, hatred, and discrimination.
Here at the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace we note with concern that young people do not know about the tragic events that occurred during the Holocaust, and as philosopher George Santayana said:
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Therefore, an important goal that the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace promotes is the inclusion of The Holocaust: Paradigm of Genocide as a subject in schools, and as a case study in universities. This aims to enable young people to learn about how these events unfolded, their consequences, and how to detect the warning signs of the rise of totalitarian regimes and extremist groups.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “Education is the starting point for building peace and for promoting the principles of dignity, equality, freedom, and mutual respect among all members of the human family.” This is established in Article 26.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is important to note that within education is the seed of good and evil: one can educate for peace or for war, for good or for evil. For this reason, universities must remain independent of any political, ideological, or religious influence.
One of the instruments that the Nazi regime used to spread its antisemitic doctrine was education. Hitler used schools as a means of indoctrination.
He also prepared extracurricular activities, and after school, children and young people had to attend Hitler Youth centers, where the indoctrination process took place, disfiguring the image of the Jews and thus making them seem like members of an inferior race. In several speeches, Hitler stressed the importance of education as a way to indoctrinate and prepare children and young people for war.
The teacher is the sower of the seed. That is why Hitler used teachers, as well as textbooks and booklets, to spread his extremist ideology. Hitler spread an antisemitic message of ethnic hatred, discrimination, and intolerance in schools and universities; therefore, it is in schools and universities that we can spread a message of love and fellowship towards others, with a basis in respect for human dignity, tolerance and the recognition of fundamental rights.
If education is the seed of good and evil, of hate or tolerance, then how does one prevent evil? By preventing the seed of hate and discrimination from spreading and germinating, and that is the responsibility of each and every one us, whoever we may be, but especially of government officials, authorities, politicians, universities, professors, teachers, and public opinion leaders.
Antisemitism, hate, and intolerance were the catalysts that brought about the explosion of the Holocaust as the paradigm of the act of genocide. The development of scientific and technological knowledge is not enough to prevent the repetition of an act as horrific as this genocide, which took the lives of approximately 20 million people. Hitler carried out the Holocaust in one of the most advanced nations of its time; therefore, an education with values is one of the key instruments to prevent another genocide from happening. The educational process must always include an education based on principles, values and respect for human dignity as fundamental pillars in the construction of peace.
As dignitary Benito Juarez correctly stated:
“Among individuals as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.”
And taking these words, I address all the senators, congressmen, diplomats, scholars, professors and researchers here present and invite you: together let us make this nation the leader of peace in Latin America.
Just as Benito Juarez was considered the Benemeritus of the Americas for his advocacy of civil liberties, let us once again present Mexico as a bastion of respect for fundamental human liberties.
For this reason, I would like to respectfully propose that together, we undertake the actions necessary and promote the teaching of the Holocaust in schools and as a case study in universities through the approval of Congressional law.
If this idea is welcome among you, I offer all the assistance that the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace can provide so that, in compliance with the resolutions of the UN, we can make education a fundamental tool in the prevention of crimes against humanity, among which the Holocaust has been classified as a capital crime.
If we don’t do something to prevent the propagation of intolerant and discriminatory ideas and attitudes against any group (whether it be a minority or not), we will become accomplices of those who commit such crimes.
Distinguished senators, deputies, diplomats, professors, and teachers: Where did the Holocaust originate? In the mind of Hitler and his collaborators. It is in the mind where ideas emerge that produce great inventions and scientific and technological developments; but it is also there, in the human mind, where genocidal acts have originated, which can be avoided through an education centered on respect for human dignity, and constitutional values and principles.
And what are you doing to prevent another genocide?
In your hands is the honor of the answer to this question.
Thank you very much.
Dr. William Soto Santiago
Ambassador of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace