On ‘feeling at home in the world’

Bern, 27.01.2018 - Message by Mr Alain Berset, President of the Swiss Confederation, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day

“What purpose does it serve to reflect on the conditio inhumana of victims of the Third Reich? Is that not outdated?” That is the question that Hans Maier – alias Jean Améry – asked 1977 in the preface to the new edition of his essay At the Mind's Limits. Maier was a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, the extermination camp liberated 73 years ago today.

Even in 2018, no-one can legitimately believe that reflecting on the Holocaust is outdated, for this tragedy, which struck at the heart of the supposedly modern and civilised world, obliges us to reflect on the worst atrocities ever inflicted by human beings on his fellow man. One of the atrocities he is capable of is torture. Maier was left so marked by the abuse he was subjected to by the Gestapo that he would eventually took his own life: “Anyone who has been subjected to torture is incapable of feeling at home in the world.”

On this day to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz, we pay tribute to all victims of Nazism. Switzerland is committed to ensuring that their memory lives on. This is reflected through its work in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an association of 31 member countries, which it currently chairs. For the first time in its history the IHRA has adopted a strategy and a set of clear priorities. These aim to improve the awareness of political decision-makers of the reality of the persecution of the Jews, Roma, Sinti and Yenish. It is an important step, and one of which Switzerland can be proud.

Today, torture and all other forms of negation of the Other unfortunately remain widespread. They must be condemned and prevented through efforts on all fronts – political, legal and educational – to ensure that everyone is able to ‘feel at home in the world’.

Together with local partners, particularly universities of teacher education, the Confederation is developing and supporting a number of projects as part of its chairmanship of the IHRA. International conferences have examined different methods and possibilities of teaching the history of the Holocaust and the mechanisms that led the Nazis – prior to the Holocaust – to kill hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.

The fight to ensure that ‘everyone can feel at home in the world’ starts by raising awareness among younger generations.

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