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Wednesday, 27 September 2006

A relativisation of crimes must not be allowed

On 27 September 2006, memorial ceremonies were held in Kyiv, Ukraine, to mark the 65th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre. The dignitaries attending the commemorations included the Presidents of Ukraine and Israel, Viktor Yushchenko and Moshe Katzav, as well as the Presidents of Croatia and Montenegro, Stipe Mesić and Filip Vujanović. The President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, was represented by the Chief of the Presidential Chancellery, Aleksander Szczygło.

Minister Aleksander Szczygło laid flowers at the memorial to the victims of the massacre. He also attended the International Forum ‘Let My People Live’ at Kyiv’s National Opera House, where he delivered a message from the President of the Republic o Poland, Lech Kaczyński.

The full text of the message from the President of the Republic of Poland is given below:

‘Mr. President of Ukraine,
Distinguished Guests,

I unite with all the participants of the commemorations to mark the 65th anniversary of the Babi Yar tragedy in this hour of painful reflection on history. I pay homage to all the victims of the genocide perpetrated here in 1941.

The Babi Yar massacre, where German executioners murdered Kyiv’s entire Jewish community, numbering tens of thousands of people, was one of the first mass atrocities of the Holocaust. The Third Reich was testing back then whether its murderous intent: a complete extermination of European Jews, could possibly be carried through.

As at all the sites of Nazi German mass atrocities, at Babi Yar dignity, name and, ultimately, life were all taken away from a person in a matter of moments. Babi Yar is one of those of Europe’s wounds that will not scar over, even though decades have passed. It is a place that will always keep us transfixed with the enormity of the atrocities perpetrated here.

The policy of extermination pursued by the German occupiers in Poland left our country vastly devastated. It was on our soil that the Nazis built most of their extermination camps where, in addition to Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and people of many other nationalities were murdered. Poland feels particularly responsible for guarding the truth about and the memory of the victims of that inhuman era so as to ensure that the warning that those events represent for us, contemporary people, does not sink into oblivion. In the Ukrainian authorities, in the person of President Viktor Yushchenko, we find an ally and a partner in exercising this responsibility. The Ukrainian efforts to commemorate the victims of Nazi barbarism command our utmost respect.

The truth about the extermination camps and execution sites, the truth about Babi Yar, pledges us to remember the victims of Nazi German crimes. But also to keep vigilance, for which the Great Pole John Paul II called, as he preached on a visit to Kyiv: ‘Who can ever forget the immense tribute of blood which they paid to the fanaticism of an ideology propounding the superiority of one race over others … May the memory of this episode of murderous frenzy be a salutary warning to all.’

Mindful of these words, once again we reiterate most emphatically that no crime, no acts of hatred, anti-Semitism or racism can be tolerated. They provoke justified aversion. A relativisation of crimes, distorting the historical truth about them, reversing the roles of the executioners and the victims must not be allowed.
We must offer immediate and clear opposition to any such phenomena.

Our today’s commemorations attended by presidents and representatives of so many countries, our unification in common memorial prayer said by our clerics, are evidence that we respect the same values; that we are united in a belief that under no circumstances is there any justification for any crime.

We want to see every nation respected in its uniqueness, so that it may strengthen its identity. Freedom makes one responsible; it makes individuals and peoples capable of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Therefore, we should act together with resolve in the spirit of solidarity. Through our day-to-day efforts we should build a future based on the right of nations and individuals to live a life of dignity in freedom, with respect for individual rights, with respect for other cultures, religions and denominations. These efforts should be made by nations, states and indeed by each one of us.

Thus, Ladies and Gentlemen, please receive my reflection as a voice of a person aghast at the atrocity perpetrated at Babi Yar sixty five years ago; but at the same time confident that together we can shape a world in which an atrocity like that one will never happen again.’

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