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Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018


Speech by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Great Synagogue of Stockholm on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018, 27 January 2018.

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Stefan Löfven held a speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Prime Minister Stefan Löfven during his speech in Great Synagogue of Stockholm on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2018. Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Offices of Sweden

Survivors, Your Majesties, Excellencies, Friends.

First of all, let me thank you, Livia, for your speech.

When you showed me Auschwitz-Birkenau last summer, it was the first time I had been there. Over the years, I have visited Yad Vashem in Israel and many other Holocaust memorials. But to stand with you at the entrance to Auschwitz, to see where the selection process took place, where you and your sister were separated from your mother, to see the red cattle car that you travelled in – that made a deep impression on me, a very deep impression.

And even if we as individuals can only manage to comprehend the tiniest fraction of the fear, the horror, the despair that place embodies, it can be enough to crush you.

Our trip, Livia, has had the greatest impact on me as Prime Minister and as a human being. Thank you.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day of mourning. Mourning mothers and fathers, grandparents, friends and loved ones.
Mourning young people who never had the chance to grow up, mourning children who never had the chance to start school or take their first steps, mourning families, relatives, communities.

Mourning the wounds that many of you carry within you, and will do forever.

But unfortunately, today is also a day of anger.

Anger over the raw and despicable anti-Semitism that we still see around the world, in Europe and in Sweden.

We have seen it in attacks against synagogues, rabbis, adults and children, in fanatical slogans during demonstrations, in debate forums, in online comments, in propaganda films.

At times when I get the reports, it seems almost overwhelming, stifling. How can this happen? How can people not have learned?

When I think about it, I feel a sense of profound anger. I know that you feel it too. But there is also something I want each and every one of you to know.

Your security and your constitutional right to exercise your religion, to observe your culture, to be who you are, to be able to live openly, securely and freely with your children and those you love – this is my primary task and that of our country.

The streets you walk on are your streets. The cities you live in are your cities. Your history is Sweden's history – and our future is something we will share.

Sweden is your country, and the democracy we have built will work tirelessly to ensure that our children and grandchildren will not only be able to continue to live as we do today, but be able to strive for something even better.

That is why anti-Semitism must be confronted with the full might of Swedish society. Democracy must confront hate – before hate confronts democracy.

Today, and all other days, we must declare: never again.

In order to fight anti-Semitism in Sweden, we need to see its different roots.

It exists in right-wing extremist and neo-Nazi groups, and these groups must be identified and handled as the terrorists they are, or risk becoming. It exists in left-wing extremist groups, which lapse into anti-Semitic lines of reasoning and conspiracy theories in a way that can never be defended or glossed over. It exists in fundamentalist Islamic environments, inspired by terrorist sects and fanatics.

But besides this, we also see anti-Semitism among adults and children who have sought refuge in Sweden. People who are not necessarily particularly religious, but who have been exposed to anti-Semitic propaganda throughout their lives through stories, newspapers, TV – often orchestrated or supported by the oppressive regimes from which they fled.

I don't care what shape or form the hate takes.

Wherever anti-Semitism exists, it must be identified and fought.

The most fundamental element of all is to ensure that hate crime is highlighted and punished, and that physical security is improved, here and now.

The Swedish Defence Research Agency has been tasked with surveying extremist propaganda on the internet, and we will strengthen the ability of society as a whole to fight it.

The Swedish Security Service has received greater resources to prevent foreign and domestic terrorism, and a month ago we established the new Swedish Centre for Preventing Violent Extremism, which will have greater powers to lead the work throughout the country.

The Swedish Police have established democracy and hate crime groups in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö, and have created similar functions in all police regions in the country. They have also received increased resources to fight hate crime on the internet.

At the same time, we are doubling state support to strengthen security for the premises of religious communities. We are also broadening the support so that we can also support non-confessional Jewish associations, and we are making more tools available, including making it easier to use surveillance cameras.

And we will continue to do that which is necessary. I refuse to allow undemocratic forces to use democracy in order to destroy it.

The only way we will be able to cope with the considerable work ahead of us is to work together. That is why I want to take the opportunity to thank you, Aron, and all of you involved in the Jewish communities and organisations, for our direct and constructive dialogue. We cannot thank you enough for the work you do.

But all of us here know that the efforts of the armed forces, the police and guards can only alleviate the symptoms – they cannot cure the disease.

For anti-Semitism to be thoroughly defeated, it must be done in schools, in liberal adult education, in every person's heart.

I am afraid that, after a while, the work Göran Persson accomplished with the Living History Forum began to be taken for granted. This work must be revitalised in each new age and in each generation.

This is why we will continue to promote the work of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance for remembrance, research and education, and organise a new international Holocaust conference here in Stockholm in two years' time.

This is why we are now organising new training courses and conferences throughout the country, so that school employees learn to nip racism and anti-Semitism in the bud.

This is why we are equipping all pupils in Swedish schools with knowledge of source criticism and responsible use of digital media, so as to be able to confront anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

And this is why we will also improve national educational materials for newly arrived immigrants, so that every member of Swedish society understands the rights and obligations of individuals, the fundamental role of freedom of religion – and not least, the misapprehensions and repugnance of anti-Semitism.

I also want many more children and young people – regardless of background – to be able to make the trip that I took with you, Livia, and be given state aid to visit Holocaust memorials, to be able to see with their own eyes, be able to feel, and try to understand.

It can arouse feelings that are overwhelming, but also build something stronger, something more decisive in a person's soul. And, my friends, this is a day of mourning, of anger – but also of determination. And we are determined, to honour all the children, parents, loved ones, those we have lost, whom we mourn today. And in every age, in every generation, in every part of our community of humanity, we are determined to make one thing very clear:

Never again.

Never again.

Never again.