70 years ago, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp where the Nazis slaughtered millions of people. A decision of the UN declared this day, 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust… one of the deadliest crimes against humanity… has become a symbol of grief and pain, of unbridled cruelty and neglect for human life. It’s hard to imagine that real death factories, mass shootings, and deportations were a reality of the 20th century, organised in cold blood in what then seemed to be a civilised Europe. Yes, people planned and organised them in cold blood. We’ve now seen the exhibition that you’ve seen as well… this was a planned deliberate operation to destroy people. Incredibly simple.
However, as history shows wherever ideas of ethnic or racial supremacy are put into people’s heads and the seeds of inter-ethnic hatred are sown, wherever traditional human values are destroyed and trampled upon, civilisation is quickly and inevitably replaced with barbarity, whilst peace is replaced with cruel conflicts, war, and aggression. The Nazis threatened to enslave the peoples of our multi-ethnic state. They were to be either assimilated by force and turned into slaves, or, destroyed to create so-called living space for some “higher race”.
According to the materials of the Nürnberg trials, the Nazis killed six million Jews in Europe during the Holocaust. These numbers are unfathomable. They didn’t die in battle… they simply destroyed them… burnt in furnaces or shot. Among those millions are hundreds of thousands of our compatriots. Such crimes don’t and shouldn’t have a term of limitation. We can neither forgive nor forget them. Any attempts to hush up these events up, to distort or “rewrite” history are unacceptable and immoral. Frequently, such attempts cover up the desire to hide one’s shameful behaviour… cowardice, hypocrisy, and treason, and to justify one’s direct or indirect silent collusion with the Nazis in implementing their criminal policy. However, historical facts are irrefutable. Thus, they show that Banderovtsy and other collaborationists and Hitler’s henchmen were themselves involved in the destruction of the Jewish people, in the destruction of Jews in Lvov, Odessa, Kiev, and other Ukrainian towns and cities, whilst Nazis in the Baltic states conducted ethnic cleansing in Vilnius and Riga, in Kaunas and Tallinn.
On this tragic day, we honour the memory of all those tortured by the Nazis and their henchmen in concentration camps and ghettoes. We grieve for the millions who died in the flames of the bloodiest of wars in the history of mankind. I’d like to note that on the initiative of public and religious organisations, and not only Jewish organisations, Russia conducts a search for and tending to mass burial grounds of Holocaust victims and we are recovering the names of those victims. This effort deserves special support and we’ll definitely continue it. Today, we pay tribute to the courage of those who survived the horrors of occupation, violence, and humiliating forced labour, those who survived these inhuman trials and remained unbroken.
In this connection, I can’t help recalling another date… today, we mark the anniversary of the liberation of Leningrad from the Nazi blockade. This was yet another example of a criminal massacre organised by the Nazis, who destroyed the civilian population of Leningrad in cold blood trough bombing raids and direct artillery attacks. We bow to the heroic feat of the Red Army officers and men who defeated Nazism and stopped the terrible annihilation machine. It wasn’t only their Motherland that they protected from the aggressors. Their great liberation mission became a deed of honour for our entire people. In this connection, I’d like to say that as we’ve just recalled, Russians bore the brunt of the battle against Nazism. Seventy percent of all the Red Army officers and men were Russians, and the Russian people made the largest sacrifice in the name of victory.
However, here within the confines of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre I’d like to recall that Jewish citizens of the USSR made an enormous contribution to the victory over our enemy. More than half a million Jews fought in the Red Army, over 40,000 were members of partisan units. Almost a third of them (27 percent) were volunteers. Almost 200,000 died in battles for their Fatherland. The heroism of representatives of all ethnic groups, their selfless love for their homeland, their readiness for self-sacrifice will always remain in our memory, in the thankful memory of the peoples of Russia. As we celebrate this year, the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory, we’ll again and again address words of our warmest gratitude to our dear veterans, including those present here, those who gave themselves for the freedom and independence of their Motherland.
Friends, as we pay tribute, we should look ahead into the future. We shouldn’t allow crimes similar to the Holocaust to be repeated. This is our common duty; without exaggeration, it’s the most important and pressing task for the entire world community. True, there has been significant change on the world arena in the past decades. However, we see that antihuman ideas are still alive. We continue to come across attempts at dividing mankind on ethnic, racial, or religious grounds and demonstrations of anti-Semitism, Russophobia, and aggressive intolerance of other ethnic groups, cultures, and traditions.
Nazis made use of these primitive instincts back in their times; now, neonationalists, extremists, and terrorists in a number of countries and regions use them. We have to counter these threats together, to protect the peace and freedom of the people together, and defend the right of states and peoples to choose their own development path. History shows what a terrible abyss claims at world supremacy could lead humanity to; what tragedy may result from attempts at putting pressure on sovereign states or failure to respect their rights. We all know how dangerous and destructive double standards and indifference to others may be. Take, for instance, the current tragedy in [Novorossiya], where the peaceful people of Donetsk, Lugansk, and other towns and cities have been shot for months in cold blood. I would like to repeat that today, in the 21st century, it’s important to enhance the efficiency of the collective security system and to promote the values of humanism and coöperation and to always bear in mind the lessons we learn from history.
In conclusion, dear friends, I can’t help sharing my own impressions of the film we saw. Of course, we all know about those death camps and we often use such words as antihuman and crime, and we know what the Holocaust is about. However, as how cruel as this may sound… sometimes, these words are abused and lose their initial meaning. When you see such documentary evidence it all comes back with renewed force. One tends to realise what we had to deal with, what humanity and people had to deal with back then. We honour all those who died and all those who put an end to this massacre.
27 January 2015
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
President of the Russian Federation
President of Russia official website