Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, 28 April 2014
My fellow Hungarians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday, barely nine years after his death, Pope John Paul II was canonized in Rome. Karol Wojtyła, the first Polish Pope, left us an important and eternally relevant message when he reaffirmed on several occasions that anti-Semitism cannot be reconciled with Christianity. He was the Pope who called the events that took place in the Auschwitz death camp a triumph of the devil, the darkest chapter in history. He was the Pope who called Auschwitz a place which preserves for later times the memory of the tragic consequences of darkness conquering the spirit, the conscience and the heart. He was also one who cautioned us about the need to liberate mankind from the nightmare of racism, exclusion, enslavement and xenophobia.
There is not a single person of virtue in the world who would disagree with this. All those wishing to find excuses, to relativize or to question such a crime commit an immorality. Thus they themselves are tainted by guilt.
Because every excuse made, every indulgent, self-justifying gesture may lead to right back to where we are standing now, and may lead to what should never be allowed to happen again.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
All those dragged here had no idea of where they were going. They did not have the means of defending themselves, nor did they have any chance of escape.
Those leaving the suffocating confines of crowded cattle trucks arrived here already humiliated, terrified and deprived of almost everything they had. Entering through the gates of the camp they were confronted with the fact that their cynical executioners were methodically depriving them of the last remains of their humanity.
Within moments of arrival, children were separated from their families, wives from their husbands, the young from the old, the strong from the weak; left to the dark hopelessness of their barracks to agonize every night about their chances of surviving the next day. About when or if they would ever see their loved ones again. About the arrival of the hour which would bring liberation from this hell on Earth.
We know well that here in Auschwitz close to one and a half million people waited in vain for that hour. They never lived to see liberation and could never embrace their loved ones again. They were deprived of a life befitting human dignity; they were even deprived of a death befitting human dignity.
Their executioners’ plan was to exterminate them as if they were not even humans, as if they were not sentient beings, as if they had never even been born.
This was the true objective of the final solution, which made victims of millions of Jewish citizens from countries occupied by Nazi Germany.
Every third victim in Auschwitz was a Hungarian Jew. Close to half a million of my compatriots died here. Within a few weeks of the German occupation of Hungary they were herded into ghettos with systematic cruelty, then deported here to Auschwitz with the collaboration of the Hungarian state’s administrative bodies.
This place is Hungary's largest cemetery.
Some died here of hunger, some of exhaustion, some were tortured and others were shot dead.All those who escaped these fates, faced another: mass extermination. Every day since then, the silence of the crematoria, the gas chambers and the barracks of Auschwitz has served as a memorial to them and the loss their deaths left behind. The loss of those Hungarian Jews who have no family left to remember them, since all perished, from grandchild to grandparent.
We must remember them. We must remember, and remind others. We have no right to compound their immeasurable tragedy with the sin of forgetting. Their martyrdom is an eternal lesson for the whole of Europe and for all humanity.
In order to understand the tragedy of 1944, we must examine our consciences. Even if we know that enforcement of the Final Solution was the demonic plan of German occupiers. It is a constant source of pain to realize that the Hungarian State did not oppose this plan, but in fact became an accomplice to it. Hungary, which was occupied on 19th March 1944, failed to protect its own citizens. Its authorities collaborated with those who planned to exterminate our fellow compatriots. It is no excuse or explanation that this also happened in many other countries across Europe.
Because there is no explanation that can give back the chance of life to our dead. Nobody can return them to our nation. This is our shared loss, shared pain and shared mourning, for all of us Hungarians alive today. It will be the shared mourning, shared loss and shared pain for those who follow us.
We share in fate.
We share in fatelessness.
Because those who humiliated and sent our Jewish compatriots to their deaths also humiliated the entire Hungarian nation and have caused our nation an irreplaceable loss. It does not matter if the actions were those of German Nazis or of Hungarians in the service of Hitler's ideology.
There is no forgiveness for a state turning against its own citizens.
Esteemed Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
When we stand here, we hear one and a half million souls speaking to us, and asking: why? Why did they have to suffer this fate? How could such a horror happen in 20th century Europe? How could any humans sink to building factories of death for the planned extermination of their fellow humans? There is no explanation. There are no answers. There are no words that can capture the tragedy of Auschwitz.
If we close our eyes for a moment and imagine ourselves in the place of the victims, then perhaps our souls may find some consolation. Consolation that they are not only remembered as a mass of exterminated people, but that we can see among them individual destinies and faces: the faces of people who were born to find understanding and happiness. In the children we see our own children. In the mothers, our own mothers. In the grandparents, our own grandparents. People to whom we have personal attachment. Our common dead, who all deserve the silence of respect.
Let us pay our respects to their memory with a minute of shared silence.
Before saluting them, please imagine what would happen if we were to remember each and every Auschwitz victim with their own minute of silence. It challenges the imagination to even say it, but if we were to devote a silent minute to the memory of every single victim of Auschwitz in turn, that silence would last for three whole years. The moment has now come for one minute of silent prayer or contemplation – guided by our own faith or personal conviction – to remember all those whose silence surrounds us.
Thank you for giving me, as Hungary’s President, the opportunity to join in commemoration with you.
(Office of the President of the Republic)