‘No’ to a Europe of hate and the role of intercultural dialogue and education

On 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day which is commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. On this occasion, SOLIDAR Foundation participated at the opening ceremony of the exhibition ‘Roma Memory’ which was held in the European Commission premises. The exhibition on Roma genocide during World War II has been developed by the French association YAHAD - IN UNUM. Founded in 2004 by Father Patrick Desbois, this organisation is dedicated to systematically identifying and documenting the sites of mass executions of Jews and Roma by Nazi mobile-killing units in Eastern Europe during WWII.

On the eve of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Roma lived throughout Europe. For a long time, their fate in the East under the Fascist occupation remained unknown. Yet, the Roma were massively persecuted by the Nazis and their collaborators. For several years, Yahad-in Unum, in partnership with the organisation, Roma Dignity has investigated the villages of Eastern Europe, from the Former Soviet Union to Romania, to interview Roma survivors of the deportation to Transnistria and witnesses who saw the shootings of the Roma led by the ‘Einsatzgruppen’ and other German units.

SOLIDAR Foundation believes that it is imperative to remember and to transmit history in order to never forget what happened more than 70 years ago. It is crucial that the message of ‘never again’ is passed on from generation to generation and thus to avoid another human tragedy.

Over the last years Europe has witnessed a rise of populistic parties whose vocation it is to spread fear of aliens, intolerance and false national pride. It is therefore of great importance that European societies do not forget how to live with each other, no matter the ethnic or national origin, the culture or religion. SOLIDAR Foundation finds that it is unacceptable that Jews in Europe feel so insecure that immigration to Israel reaches an all-time high and that Jewish schools and Synagogues need to be guarded. Similarly, the blatant islamophobia and shameless demonising of refugees are in opposition with EU values and should be put to an end. Europe needs to put the scaremongering on hold and find its way back to solidarity and peaceful coexistence with ‘others’.

EU values are not a given and they need to be defended, which is a matter of humanity and a historical responsibility. Whereas it is the EU’s moral duty to help those who are fleeing from war, religious and political persecution, it must combat at the same time the dangerous rise of extremism, racism, xenophobia, nationalism and Anti-Semitism.

To that end, SOLIDAR  Foundation calls on member states to promote intercultural dialogue, diversity and education in order to promote EU fundamental values, fight xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Citizenship education and intercultural dialogue are a lifelong learning process and should be offered at an early stage and in all forms of education – in formal and non-formal settings. That way we may be able to (re-) instore a sustainable future of peaceful coexistence of people and nations while remaining aware that the seed which has led to Nazism is still fertile!