Dear representatives of Estonian Jewish Community,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Together with many countries around the world, we commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on this day. Today’s ceremony marks 66 years since the liberation of Auschwitz – Birkenau. This represents the end of a nightmare no-one would ever wish to be repeated. Therefore, we are gathered here in Klooga to remember not only the Jews who perished here, but all those who suffered due to the horrors of the World War II in Europe. Today, Europe is united in remembrance and solidarity.
Holocaust survivor Abel Herzberg has said: "There were not six million Jews murdered; there was one murder, six million times." By remembering the Holocaust, we are recognizing the unique value of every single life.
66 years ago today, allied forces helped to revive hope by liberating the thousands of Jewish men, women, boys and girls who survived the “death camps”. However, they were still deeply affected by the Holocaust. We should also remember that millions of people lost their health or childhood, the possibility to create a family or live a happy and peaceful life surrounded by close relatives and good friends; that millions of career prospects were lost along with dreams and hopes. They say that time heals all wounds, but we know that there are wounds too deep to ever be fully healed. That there is suffering and pain that never truly fades away, and must never be forgotten.
On this day we should also commemorate the brave people from other nations who - at a great risk to themselves and their families - helped Jews to escape the Nazi genocide. The Holocaust survivor and Nobel Literature Prize winner Elie Wiesel has written: "In those times there was darkness everywhere. In heaven and on earth, all the gates of compassion seemed to have been closed. The killer killed and the Jews died and the outside world adopted an attitude either of complicity or of indifference. Only a few had the courage to care."
Today we should also remember that even in this most brutal time, there were those who bravely stepped up to preserve at least some humanity. Along with many others, the names of Uku Masing and his wife Eha are carved on stone on Yad Vashem’s Avenue of the Righteous among the Nations: the names of those who fought the indifference and who remained true to their ideals.
It is our belief that all human life is precious and its systematic destruction due to any ideology cannot be accepted. We regard the comprehensive study of Holocaust history in all its dimensions as crucial for a wider understanding of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and discrimination. Furthermore, this understanding is an important part of Estonia’s 20th century history as well as of our international activities today.
Preventive work against racism, xenophobia and discrimination can be done through education, research, and international co-operation. Under Estonia’s national core curriculum for basic and secondary education, the Holocaust is taught during history lessons under the topic “crimes against humanity” with a focus on the uniqueness of Shoa in world history. The basic value of Holocaust education in Estonia is teaching tolerance. Since 2007 Estonia has participated in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a few weeks Estonia will celebrate its 93rd birthday. In February 1918, the Republic of Estonia was declared through the “Manifest for all the peoples of Estonia”, which included the provision of protecting the rights of ethnic minorities. In June 1926 Estonia was the first country in the world where Jews could proclaim their cultural autonomy. Thanks to that we have the opportunity to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Jewish cultural autonomy together this year.
This shows very clearly that Estonian independence was not then, and is not today meant only for Estonians, but for all people living here and contributing to the development of our society. The contribution of Jewish people living in Estonia has been and is outstanding in all areas of life, be it music, science or the economy. We can all appreciate this fact, just as we all remember and learn from the past together.
Today we bow our heads together in mourning for all those who died and suffered. There grows a memorial tree in Yad Vashem symbolising the aspirations of both the Jewish and Estonian people - a tree whose branches stretch towards the light of life. The tree blooms every spring and each of its new leaves adds hope for the future. Let us nourish it and never let it wither.