What the Holocaust Has Taught Us – Dr. William Soto Santiago
Presidente ejecuivo

What the Holocaust Has Taught Us – Dr. William Soto Santiago

September 10, 2013

National Senator of the province of Santa Cruz, Alfredo Martinez and all senators present; Minister Counselor of the Embassy of IsraelOfer Moreno; Second Secretary of the Embassy of Poland, Eva Maicut; diplomatic body accredited to Argentina; President of the DAIA, Julio Schlosser; Secretary of the Rabbinical Seminary, Miguel Toimaher; Holocaust Survivors Estela Feiguien, Liza Novera, Isa Lutowjcz, and all Holocaust survivors present; Rectors from various universities, representatives of the Jewish community, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, these words from philosopher George Santayana have become one of the inspirational quotes of the educational work of the project Traces to Remember, which preserves the testimony of Holocaust survivors as a living legacy to mankind, because the barbarism committed by the Nazi regime was not only against 20 million people, it was a crime against all of humanity. Therefore, the victims’ testimonies leave us lessons to be learned and shared by the entire human family. The story of the survivors of different genocides should not be regarded as a tragic event of the past, but rather as 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 antisemitism, intolerance, prejudice, hatred, and discrimination.

The project of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, Traces to Remember, has been designed as a tool to teach and reflect on genocidal barbarism, and to prevent the repetition of these serious crimes against human rights.

This project allows us to create opportunities for reflection in parliaments, congresses, foreign ministries, embassies, universities, institutes, schools, universities, public places, museums, and in the media, with the purpose of educating about genocide, particularly the Holocaust and its consequences. But above all, this project has the goal of creating spaces for study and reflection in order to educate present and future generations, and thus prevent crimes against humanity from happening again.

The Holocaust divided the history of civilized society into a before and after, and it left many lessons for humanity. After the Holocaust was committed, there were significant changes in the fields of human rights, justice, and medicine.

When World War II ended, all of the brutality committed by Hitler and his army came to light. The allied troops that entered the extermination and concentration camps were faced with startling images and the evidence of a barbarism that shocked the world. This genocide is among those with the largest amount of documentation: 72 million pages of records and reports, approximately 23,000 objects, and 300,000 photographs. All of this evidence counteracts any denialist state of mind.

After the crimes committed by the Nazi regime, different international organizations were created with the purpose of protecting life, human dignity, and justice, among them the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.  A new focus also emerged as to the Code of Medical Ethics, and the coining of the terms “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, among others, according to international criminal law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This historical event also made it clear that the human being is capable of committing the worst of crimes, and that within human beings is the seed of good and evil.

And how does one correct evil? By preventing that seed of hate and discrimination from spreading and growing, and that is the responsibility of all of us as individuals, but especially of government authorities, political, social, religious, and public opinion leaders, universities, and professors, who all have the ability to create and support educational projects that help achieve this goal.

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 must be taught in elementary schools, high schools, and as a case study in the universities of all countries.

In order for a genocide like the Holocaust to happen, there has to be, and indeed 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 used all available means to spread his extremist ideology. He used education as a means of indoctrination, and that is why we believe that it is through education that we can prevent another crime against humanity from happening.

If we consider it important in the upbringing of a child to teach him or her to add, divide, subtract, and multiply, or learn about the various philosophical trends, it is even more important to teach the child about respect for human values and about the Holocaust as the paradigm of the act of genocide. An education with that type of humanistic approach provides us with the tools necessary to convey respect for human dignity as the foundation for a peaceful coexistence among individuals, societies, and nations.

The development of scientific and technological knowledge is not enough to prevent the repetition of an event as horrific as this genocide, which took the lives of approximately 20 million people. Hitler carried out the Holocaust in one of the nations with the most advanced technology, science, and education of its time. Therefore, an education with values is one of the key tools in preventing another genocide from occurring.

It is essential to encourage the practice of values and respect for family, based on the recognition of human dignity, truth, honesty, love, peace, justice, and tolerance.

The Holocaust is one of the most current and controversial subjects of study and research, making it a challenge to adapt the historical material to the needs of students. Interest in the Holocaust is consistently increasing, not only among the Jewish people, but also at a global level, as demonstrated by the Stockholm Conference held in January 2000. Nowadays, Holocaust education is a legitimate instrument endorsed by the United Nations through UNESCO; it is used to expose and prevent antisemitism, racism, discrimination, and the violent outbreaks of extremist groups such as neo-Nazi groups.

It is a dire mistake to say that a genocide like the Holocaust will never happen again and that it is therefore not necessary to devote efforts to and focus on Holocaust education and prevention.

This thought is not consistent with the violent events that have occurred after this human tragedy. One need only recall that the Rwandan Genocide was committed in 1994, in a global context of outstanding scientific and technological development, and in the presence of various international organizations. Therefore, the only thing that guarantees us that people will become more aware of the value of life is education, a fundamental tool that will allow us to work effectively in any part of the world and with people of different nationalities, cultures, ideologies, languages, ages, religions, and beliefs.

Many people ask: “Why don’t you forget the Holocaust? Why not turn the page?” We’ll forget the Holocaust when we are certain that another genocide will never take place again, and in order for this to happen, each and every one of us has the responsibility to take action.

To all of the survivors here with us today, I respectfully invite you to never stop telling your story, for the testimony of each and every one of you is a legacy for the Jewish people and for humanity.

And to conclude, I’d like for you to reflect on a quote by Simon Wiesenthal: "There will always be Jews as long as they remember. There is no greater sin than to forget."

 

Thank you very much.