Speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Holocaust Remembrance Lecture 2019

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Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends:

I want to welcome you all to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and to the 2019 Holocaust Remembrance Lecture.

Let us first take a moment to remember and honour the many victims of the Holocaust, in silence. If you can, please rise. […]

Thank you – and thank you for coming here and for joining us in showing the absolute necessity of remembering the Holocaust, which remains an unprecedented and atrocious crime against humanity - and a disastrous wound in the history of mankind.

The government of Sweden is committed to the fight against anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism, violent extremism and racially or religiously motivated discrimination and violence. The Prime Minister last week in his Statement of Government Policy named the fight against anti-Semitism a priority area for the government, and spoke of the International Holocaust Remembrance Conference we are hosting in the year 2020.

We have today the opportunity to listen to Professor Deborah Lipstadt give her thoughts on anti-Semitism and incitement to violence and hatred I want to thank her for accepting to come to Stockholm and to speak here.

It was yesterday 74 years since Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. With Stockholm in a deep winter’s freeze, we can barely fathom the last days in this extermination camp. The thought of survivors forced west on death marches, huddling forward in the snow and sometimes barefoot, shakes us to the core.

The images and the testimonies from Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps are gut-wrenching. The world could see with their own eyes the unimaginable horrors of the Holocaust. These crimes were the result of rampant anti-Semitism in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. But of course, the Nazis did not invent anti-Semitism, nor did it go away with the end of World War II. Anti-Semitism draws on millennial-old stereotypes, myths and conspiracy theories – some of which unfortunately remain very much alive today. This must be fought with all our might and with the strongest resolve.

Indeed, we are now witnessing an increase in intolerance and hatred in Europe and the rest of the world – on the internet, in the streets, and around religious institutions. The incidents of violence and attacks against Jewish institutions around the world are too many to mention here. The government of Sweden condemns this violence unequivocally. Intolerance directed at minority groups such as Jews is also a threat to all of us, and to the democratic societies that we have historically fought hard to build.

Jewish life is part of Swedish life, and Jewish culture is an important thread in our European social and cultural fabric.

Everyone living in Sweden should be able to lead a life based on equality, safety and dignity – and without fear or threat when practising one’s religion. The right of religious freedom or belief is a human right.

A range of measures are taken to protect Jewish life in Sweden, let me mention just a few of these:

  • Education and better knowledge about history and the Holocaust in schools, including financial support to schools for visiting sites of the Holocaust.

  • Enhancing security for religious institutions

  • The government has recently given increased support to enhance the security of Jewish buildings. As I said earlier, the Prime Minister has also announced that Sweden in the year 2020 will host an international conference on the memory of the Holocaust. This is twenty years after the Stockholm Declaration, the founding document of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Anti-Semitism is a global problem, and not limited to any national setting or regional context.

For centuries, Jews have been the target of unfair blame, wrongful accusations, senseless hatred and violence – simply because they are Jews. Anti-Semitism has deep and historical roots and it has taken many different forms.

But with the arrival of the internet, new borderless and anonymous environments have been created in which age-old conspiracy theories can take additional forms. Hence it is important to underline that Human Rights are as valid online as offline and shall be promoted, protected and ensured in both contexts.

Fighting anti-Semitism online is a huge challenge for the open and democratic world.

Here, governments need to cooperate with the media industry, civil society and specialists. Large social media companies like Facebook and Twitter carry a responsibility in these matters. Anti-Semitism are not only attacks on Jews but also a fundamental threat to our democracy as it challenges our fundamental human rights.

The EU Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online is an important step, but much remains to be done in terms of monitoring, implementation, accountability and enforcement.

Continued international cooperation is important. The EU, the United Nations and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance are vital in this work. I appointed in 2016 an ambassador for Human rights, Democracy and the Rule of law, who now heads the Swedish delegation to the IHRA. In 2016, I also appointed for the first time a Swedish Special Envoy for inter-religious and intercultural dialogue and to combat anti-Semitism and to protect religious minorities on a global level. Both are with us here today.

Bilateral consultations and cooperation with Israel, the United States and partners in Europe remain a priority.

The ongoing wars around the world, continued terrorist attacks underline all too clearly the need to address the human rights violations and abuses and the root causes of intolerance, hatred, violence and armed conflict.

It is clear that no single country can solve or combat these problems alone.

And it is clear to us that no set of countries or governments can solve these issues without working in close cooperation with civil society organisations.

An active civil society is key in this endeavour; education and dialogue are, without doubt, the most important cornerstones of a peaceful, inclusive and tolerant society.

Again, I want to really thank you for joining us in the conversation today, and with that I want to welcome Professor Deborah Lipstadt to hold the 2019 Holocaust Remembrance Lecture on anti-Semitism.

Contact

Pezhman Fivrin
Press Secretary to Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström
Phone (switchboard) +46 8 405 10 00