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Speech at the Swedish Parliament by the Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson

Speech at the Swedish Parliament by the Prime Minister of Sweden, Göran Persson

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Cordelia Edvardson, author and journalist, came to Sweden with Folke Bernadotte's "white buses" after the liberation of Auschwitz.

Let me read her description of her first real encounter with Sweden taken from her memoirs "Burned child seeks the fire". She writes about Christmas Eve in a Swedish family, where she felt like "an ugly blotch in this luminous Carl Larsson painting":

"At first they pretended not to notice. The Swedes are masters of this art, the girl learned after a while, perhaps because there is not much to take notice of. Then the tall, maternally buxom Mrs. H. made a brave attempt to draw the girl in. "But don´t you feel comfortable with us, dear?" she begged?, or threatened?. "Now it's all behind you, don´t you see? Now you have to forget all the horrible things that happened! Soon you will be healthy, and then everything will be different, believe me!"

But the girl didn’t want to forget. She didn’t want all her anguish, all her pain to be denied. She lacked words, but if she had had them, she would have screamed:

"You want to take my anguish from me, deny it and wipe it away and protect yourselves against my rage, but...then you deny me too..."

After many years, when the girl was no longer a girl, but a mother herself, she found the words. She gave them to us.

Today we are eternally grateful that Cordelia and many, many other survivors along with her finally found ways to tell us their story.

Today we know how wrong it was to say: you must forget.

Today, we say: we must never forget.

* * *

Auschwitz - a testimony to the evil of man in our times, in our modern, civilised Europe.
Fifty-five years ago today the gates of hell on earth opened.

This day, we are gathered here in remembrance of the Holocaust.

We remember the victims and honour those who survived. We remember those who performed heroic deeds, courageous people like Raoul Wallenberg whose memorial stands here in the Swedish parliament.

Today, exactly 55 years after the liberation of Auschwitz I am pleased to announce that the 27th of January will be the official Swedish remembrance day for the Holocaust.

I hope that this day will win the hearts of the Swedish people and generate many different activities in homes, schools and cultural life.

I hope that this day will lead both to remembrance, and discussion that looks ahead to the future.

* * *

You and me - all of us form the link between a hideous past and a future in which such atrocities as the Holocaust must never be repeated.

Therefore, I repeat today as I've done many times before, the appeal from the Old Testament:

“Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation.”

Living History, which received the prompt support of all the parties here in the Swedish parliament, emerged from this sense of shared responsibility to remember.

We will carry the Living History project to completion by setting up a new institution - the Forum for Living History. The Forum will serve as a permanent centre for remembrance, research and dialogue about the many grim dilemmas of the Holocaust. It will also be a centre for research about the genocide of the Roma, the mass murder of disabled persons and the persecution and murder of homosexuals and dissidents.

In hundreds of thousands of Swedish homes and thousands of classrooms, the book entitled "Tell ye your children..." has formed the basis for a discussion between the generations about fundamental democratic and humanistic values, about right and wrong.

Pupils and teachers, parents and children, politicians and experts - all of us need to discuss the connections between the horrors of our past and the dangers we face today. We have to try to understand the underlying mechanisms.


Because today, in Sweden, symbols of hatred can be seen on jackets and walls. Today, in Sweden, people are being abused because of the colour of their skin. Today, in Sweden, Neo-Nazis are marching in the streets.

We have to use all our strenght to fight them. We must show our full determination. We must use our legal systems, and we will.

The Swedish governement intends to tighten up legislation against Nazi-related crimes. This applies to unlawful discrimination, racial agitation and the prohibition of active participation in Nazi organisations. We will also examine the statutory periods of limitation in order to more easily and efficiently address the problem of White Power music.

We must fight the superficial, simplistic ideas with the lessons of those who know. We have to discuss not only what fundamental values we want our societies to be built upon, but also how weak they are, how easily they can crumble and fall away - if we lower our guard.

Right now, this discussion continues within the framework of the Stockholm International Conference on the Holocaust. For the first time ever political leaders and experts from 48 countries have gathered to place these questions at the top of the political agenda.

This international conference has already marked an important starting point for our common and unceasing mission to take the lessons from our past into the future we are to share.

* * *

Dear friends,

When Cordelia Edvardson, like other survivors who came to Sweden after the liberation, tells us about the feeling she experienced at that time: "they pretended not to notice. The Swedes are masters of this art", it hurts.

But even if it hurts, our quest must be to seek greater knowledge.

Our quest must be to increase our efforts to pass on the legacy of our past to future generations.

We must be able to say to our children:

There is always a choice. Not to choose is also a choice. Think, and take a stand!
Don’t choose the easy way, don't choose the path of indifference and silence! Have the courage to stand up for your fellow human-beings!

Fight anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia wherever you may find them!
All human beings are of equal worth!

Thank you.

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Plenary Sessions: Messages and speeches

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Closing Session and Declaration

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