This year's meeting of the International Ravensbrück Committee

03.09.2021

The situation in Europe and the position of the International Ravensbrück Committee on the subject of inalienable human rights. After the devastation of the Second World War, the proposing countries included the pursuit of peace, the fight against social exclusion and discrimination as well as the protection of human rights and respect for human dignity as early as 1947 in the treaties that later formed the basis for the establishment of the European Union declared to their basic principles. We currently represent fourteen countries, which is a large number to be proud of. We represent a small Europe that is aware that we represent the memory of a history that is now almost 80 years ago; But on this story the political and civil society construction of the whole of Europe, which includes 27 countries, is based. For the results achieved after the end of the war and in the second half of the last century, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, which recognizes the difficult path of reconciliation in transforming Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace. If we are dealing with this difficult subject today, it is because for some years now there have been worrying signs of intolerance, discrimination and negationism in Europe which call into question the principles that have been won. We know that there are camps on Europe's borders for refugees who have fled and are refused admission from their countries where unheard-of methods of violence and coercion are used. We also know that there are too many and increasingly common instances of people being marginalized from society for being “different” or being persecuted for writers and journalists for defying government legislation. But aren't these acts of intolerance and neglect of duty the same that led to the arrest of our mothers? How can we honor the memory of the victims - and by victims I mean not only those who did not return, but all women who were in Ravensbrück - if we do not take action against this kind of injustice and violence? We have a duty to preserve their memory, but so that it is not confined to history, we also have a duty to make their words topical and to speak out where rights are not recognized. So what is the legacy of deportation, this pivotal event in World War II, when the voice of the witnesses fades and the inevitable vacuum created by the passage of time threatens to erase the memory of the trampled rights? That is the question we have to ask ourselves. And when looking for an answer, we should keep in mind that no country is an isolated entity, but is closely linked to all others. So on what does the difficulty of sharing the principles of respect for and protection of the rights of the individual depend? What has happened over the years that thwarted the path of democracy? The testimonies that survivors passed on to us and the horror of which we understood did not seem to have become part of a collective consciousness: we learned to remember the facts, but we did not work enough on the causes and consequences. Universal rights should have become a common heritage, but we know that the history of each country that could give us answers has had a profound influence on the development of this collective tragedy. In the post-war period there were numerous problems to be overcome, the whole of Europe to be rebuilt, the national communities torn apart by the war years to be restored, and relations between individual countries to be renewed. In the western countries this was possible within the framework of a democratic system that never really clarified complicity and responsibility for fascism and national socialism and left niches in which right-wing extremists could re-establish themselves; In the Eastern European countries, the communist regime, which wanted to oppose the American presence in the West, subjected the population to a new authoritarianism that suppressed individual freedoms and prevented the development of democratic societies. We have seen that history and memory do not always match, that memories from different countries can conflict with one another and that the individual words have different meanings at different latitudes. We are aware of this, but we must make sure that it does not become a limitation or even an obstacle in the seriousness of our values We have seen that history and memory do not always match, that memories from different countries can conflict with one another and that the individual words have different meanings at different latitudes. We understand this, but we must ensure that it does not become a limitation or an obstacle if we are to take seriously the values on which our committee is based. As I said yesterday, our goal must be a shared memory. Democracy is not given to us once and for all, and the germ that can destroy it snakes its way more insidiously into the meander of society than we imagine. I would like to recall the enlightening words of Lia Levi, an Italian-Jewish writer persecuted during fascism: you have to defend democracy by being there a minute earlier and not a minute too late. The manipulation of public opinion takes place through invasive systems that first create the enemy, the other, who then has to be persecuted and against whom exclusion and social hatred are then stirred up. The National Socialist-Fascist regime did not come into being suddenly, but after years of propaganda activity with the help of a persuasive system that created the basis for a consensus and produced thousands of informers who were ready to report the "enemies" and protect their small space. Today's information technology instruments have greatly increased the range of communication; they exercise profound control over moods in society: therefore, our beliefs and the principles that guide them must be deep and strong. “Never again should something like this be repeated”: This call came from all sides, from all groups of deportees, as a warning to all future generations. As the second generation, it is our primary responsibility to turn this admonition into action, and I hope the entire committee will stand up for it with conviction. Ambra Laurenzi President