The Senate of the Republic of Colombia set the stage for the Traces to Remember forum “Tolerance and Respect: the Requirements to Achieve Peace”, held on Thursday, May 30th with the participation of the international directors of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace at the Luis Guillermo Velez Auditorium.
The commemorative plaques of Mr. Jacobo Brod and Holocaust survivor Sigmund Halstuch were exhibited at this event.
—Dr. William Soto, Ambassador of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace—
"I would like to respectfully propose to the honorable senators here present, that through another law of Congress, the Holocaust be included as a subject of analysis and debate during the last years of school, and as a course of study or a case study in universities. May we transform the darkest chapter, the dark stain on the page of humanity’s existence into the most powerful mechanism of reflection and protection for the value of rights to life and human dignity."
The forum was carried out with the participation of Dr. Edgar Espíndola Niño, Second Vice President of the Senate of the Republic, and gathered ambassadors of different countries including Israel, Poland, France, Russia, and the Head of Culture of the German Embassy in Colombia. These diplomats expressed their countries’ historical commitment to Holocaust survivors, and the responsibility of working to prevent crimes against humanity, which occur as a consequence of intolerance, discrimination and the propagation of extremist ideologies.
—Dr. Edgar Espíndola, Second Vice President of the Senate—
"This Traces to Remember forum about tolerance and respect as a path or a requirement to achieve peace, is a way to express from here, from the Congress of Colombia, to Colombians and to the world that respect has to be the essential focus for a peaceful coexistence among human beings."
—Maciej Zietara, Ambassador of Poland to Colombia—
"More than half of the Shoah victims were Polish citizens, members of the Jewish community of Poland, which accounted for nearly three million, five hundred thousand people on the eve of World War II. We are witnessing the moment in which more and more people who knew the horrors of the Holocaust are departing from us. This is the last opportunity for us to recover and preserve the testimonies."
—Pierre-Jean Vandoorne, Ambassador of France to Colombia—
"What happened here is not only the responsibility of the collaborationist State of Vichy, and Marshal Pétain, it is the responsibility of France. We are all heirs to that responsibility. At that time, Jacques Chirac broke through a historical lie and then decided to end –not to end, because this never ended up being paid... but yes, to pay a debt that is still outstanding."
—Gunnar Schneider, Head of Culture and Press of the German Embassy in Colombia—
"To avoid a reoccurrence of a catastrophe there must be a memory, because knowing the terrible event that took place, we have the hope that when someone attempts to commit similar crimes, we will say ‘no.’"
The Ambassador of Israel explained that during the Holocaust, man showed that it was capable of being inhumane towards its own kind.
—Yoed Magen, Ambassador of Israel to Colombia—
"Although the Holocaust was a unique tragedy for the Jewish people, its lessons are universal. The Holocaust was the lowest point in human history. It showed that, although the Jews could very well be the first victims of anti-Semitism, they are rarely the last. Remember, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers, but with verbal statements of political leaders who advocated hatred, intolerance and racism."
With tears in his eyes, Holocaust survivor Sigmund Halstuch shared his touching testimony with the audience, recalling the difficulties he encountered in order to survive the Nazi persecution.
—Sigmund Halstuch, Holocaust survivor—
"Mom and us, who were the only survivors, would carry poison in our pockets so that we could consume it if we were captured. Mom wanted to commit suicide but I never let her do it because I had hope. We were able to get a farmer, who did not know us, to hide us. For ten months I was living in dreadful conditions: in a space they separated that was 80 centimeters wide, in dampness, coldness, but I was one of the very few privileged ones. It is very hard to talk about all of this, to lose a brother in a concentration camp, dad was buried alive in a mass grave, my grandmother and aunt were taken away on the train of death… but I cannot complain."
Rabbi Yehoshua Rosenfeld paid tribute to Mr. Jacobo Brod.
—Rabbi Yoshua Rosenfeld—
"Right after the Holocaust, Mr. Jacob got married at the Łódź Ghetto, because he loved life. He arrived here, and because of his love for life, he shared his love with everyone, until the last years of his life in Beit Abot, where he shared with everyone so much happiness for life, and a secret: when he would travel to Miami to visit his family, he would always say: “Oh, how I want to return to Colombia because I love Colombia and I love life.”
Dr. Diana Wang, president of Generations of the Shoah in Argentina, also stressed the important to teach the Holocaust in schools and universities.
—Dr. Diana Wang, Daughter of Holocaust Survivor, Argentina—
"What makes the Shoah something that should be taught, is the fact that the Shoah is a precedent, it has established a new standard in humanity; meaning that, what previously could not be done, can now be done. It has proven that there is nothing a human being cannot do to another human being. We must teach this."
The event was broadcasted by the channel of the Senate of the Republic.