The people I see every day at Auschwitz are very different. These young people come from different societies, countries and continents. And, of course, they have different frames of reference. What is really important to me is that after this experience, when they imagine their own future and the role they want to play in it, they will cross the threshold of remembrance, and manage to acquire, thanks to what they saw and heard here, a vision of their own individual responsibility. And, for that to happen, I believe real educational work needs to be done, both before and—especially—after the visit. History alone is not enough; it should be tied to ethics and civic education. We have a duty toward the new generations: to offer them all the tools so they can become adults with full awareness.
Elie Wiesel, who died last year, described Auschwitz as the “place of truth,” and explained that remembering is not enough; rather, the fact must be understood and passed on that the Shoah took place because of the actions, and the indifference, of many, so that memory is put in the service of gaining awareness. Don’t you believe that’s a lesson that should be useful for us today, now that new forms of discrimination and indifference have come up regarding the fate of migrants in Europe and the lives of so many victims of war before our very gates?
That’s why it’s not enough to enclose the Holocaust within the field of history. The cry of the victims is not only a cry that comes to us from the depths of history. It is a cry that is moral, ethical and civic. And if anyone thinks that just showing that “an event” took place is enough, they are sorely mistaken. Reflecting on the meaning, the significance of that event—that is what is truly crucial, from my point of view, for our situation today, if we want to arrive at a new understanding of the responsibility that weighs on each of us. Our indifference today is accusing us, even more than people’s indifference during the Second World War. On the one hand, now we know all too well the price of this indifference, and on the other, the means for action available to us are on a completely different level compared to those of the past.
And there is something that makes our situation even more problematic: we live in societies that have known peace for a long time. It’s easy to say you are sorry about a world that did not do enough during the Second World War. But this sentiment can only be considered sincere if it is coming from those who are striving to do everything they can right now. In the future, there will be museums dedicated to the current wave of refugees, and to the tragedy of the Rohingya in Burma. Then, it will be all of us who will be held responsible for what happened.