Statement by H. E. Ambassador Mihnea Motoc

Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations,

on Behalf of H. E. Mr. Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania,

at The 28th Special Session of the UN General Assembly,

marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps




Mr. President of the General Assembly,
Secretary General, Ministers,
Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives


I stand before you today, speaking on behalf of the Government of Romania
and voicing feelings coming from my compatriots, to say our sorrow, and to
pay our profound respect to the memory of so many people who, most of them
simply because they were Jews, suffered and lost their lives at the Nazi
concentration camps.


Today is a day of remembrance for the victims, and a day when we say our
gratitude to soldiers who made the nightmare and the evil of the
concentration camps come to an end. We recall the liberation of
Auschwitz-Birkenau, a milestone in the tearing down of the entire network of
death camps.


It is right to honor this day at the UN, it is right to hold this special
session of our General Assembly. We need to remember the past, we need to
hold on to its lessons, and to seek thereupon guidance for the times to
come.


Romania upheld all the way this remembrance at the UN. Romanians remember
too the years of Nazi terror, the times of an ideology that produced the
infamous camps. Many Romanian Jews perished there. As the world was learning
the full extent of the horror, Romanians too realized the full depth of the
tragedy that befell on fellow citizens.


Coming out of the long shadow of totalitarianism and reintegrating the
community of democratic nations, Romanians took upon a long, painful journey
of recovering their memories and confronting the whole truth of those
dramatic years. Today, we in Romania do believe that it is our duty to know
and not to forget.


We believe there are responsibilities we need to acknowledge and assume, we
believe we have to take a critical appraisal of history, so that the past as
it happened is not forgotten, and we can reconstruct ourselves as part of
constructing our future.


The Romanian experience with its own Jewish community during World War II,
the fact that fellow citizens have been victims of the Holocaust, should
not, and can not, be neither forgotten, nor belittled. The tragedy unfolded
against the background of dramatic events for the country and the nation.
Romania knew then times of profound turbulence. A radical change took place
in the country’s political regime, bringing to power, following a coup
d’Etat, a pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic party, the Legionnaire
Movement.


In conjunction with several organizations of Holocaust survivors, and the
Federation of Jewish Communities from Romania, our Government established
the “Holocaust Day” in Romania, to pay a pious homage to all those that
suffered from discriminatory anti-Semitic and racist policies promoted by
the Romanian State in the middle of the twentieth century, in a turbulent
moment of our own national history. By paying homage to the dead or
deported, to those obliged to leave the country, to those dispossessed of
their belongings, of their rights and liberties guaranteed by the
Constitution and treated as inferior human beings, we take, every year, on
the 9th of October, a test of conscience. We thereby try to understand the
causes and the consequences of ignoring the core values and traditions of
tolerance of our own people.


The Jewish population in Romania was then subjected to crimes. The most
important chapter of the Romanian participation to Holocaust relates to the
deportations of Jews from parts of Romanian territory to the concentration
camp located in Transnistria, a territory situated between the rivers
Dnestre and Bug under Romanian administration during World War II. The
history of crimes against Jews comprises other dark pages, among which the
Iasi pogrom of June 1941.


Moreover, the Government decided to assign the task of disclosing all the
relevant facts regarding the Romanian participation to Holocaust to an
international committee of specialists in history, chaired by Professor Elie
Wiesel. The report recently issued by this Committee will set the basis for
any future investigation of this horrendous phenomenon, as well as for
disseminating information to the public opinion, especially the young
generations. The Ministry of Education and Research included in school
curricula an optional course on the Holocaust, and the Holocaust in Romania.


These measures are part of a broader program promoting knowledge and
understanding of our past and of events related to the Holocaust. It
comprises adoption of legislation forbidding fascist, racist, xenophobic and
anti-Semitic symbols and organizations, and the cult of personalities
bearing responsibility for crimes against humanity.


Romania has now a longstanding commitment to come to terms with its own
past, and an established record of international cooperation in researching
the Holocaust. Last December, Romania became a member of ITF – the Task
Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and
Research. Romania will continue to implement programs for scientific
research on the Holocaust, education for tolerance, protection of the Jewish
cultural patrimony, in a process that brings together governmental action
initiatives from the civil society.


Coming to terms with one’s own past, with all the good and the evil there is
to it, is an exercise in honesty and democratic conscience. Condemning
perpetrators of the crimes, we should not forget that even under the harsh
political and military conditions of that time, many well known as well as
many unknown Romanians have risked their freedom, even their lives, to save
their Jewish fellow citizens from death. Some of these Romanians who stood
up are nowadays recognized by the Israeli State as “Righteous among the
Nations”.


The Holocaust has a particular significance and observance today. It must
not repeat itself. For that we must make sure the generations to come will
still be able to learn and understand the whole truth. As Elie Wiesel
recalled, “never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which
has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times
sealed… Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my
soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even
if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never. ”


That is why today’s commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi death camps
is so important. It is important that this day of remembrance is observed at
the UN, allowing a renewed message for the global community to capitalize on
what we had achieved as human kind during these last six decades and make
sure that such atrocities and tragedies never ever happen again. We are
today reminded in a very powerful way of the need to brace ourselves further
and fight more resolutely racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. These
scourges can never be addressed lightly.


This day must be for all of us a moment of recollection and reflection, a
good time to meditate upon totalitarianism and its tragic outcomes, upon
community ties and the values of human solidarity, upon the ways to ensure
that democracy, legality and respect for fundamental liberties and rights of
all human beings will always prevail.


Thank you.