Remarks By H.e. Ambassador Selçuk Ünal On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (27 January 2015, Ottawa City Hall)

Ottava Büyükelçiliği 28.01.2015

The Honourable Holocaust Survivors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, we mourn millions of Jews and other minorities, who were murdered during the Nazi regime. The Holocaust is the most incomparable, unique crime perpetrated against humanity. 70 years after the liberation of Auschwitz–Birkenau which represented unparalleled vision that denied a common humanity and global intent to all non-members of the “master-race”, we remember those men, women and children who were sent to death just for being Jewish.

Turkish Government is represented today by H.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in the commemoration in Auschwitz. The commemoration of the Turkish Jewish community in Turkey is being held in the presence of H.E. Speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly Mr. Cemil Çiçek in a university in Ankara. Speaker of the Turkish Parliament also attended the Holocaust commemoration activities held by the Czech Parliament in cooperation with the European Parliament yesterday in Prague.

During the Second War, many Turkish citizens in Europe, most of whom of Jewish origin, also lost their lives in concentration camps. Some Turks in the Balkans were mixed with them in their march to death. Today, we also remember the memory of the Turkish diplomats who served in many European countries during that dark period. While many countries were dispatching hundreds of thousands to extermination camps or simply refusing them entry, Turkish diplomats risked their lives, and of their families, to save not only our citizens of Jewish origin, but also many other Jews in Europe from the Holocaust. Taking their respectable place in Yad Vashem, we remember them with honour.

But this was not extraordinary for us. Because Turkish territories have traditionally been a land that offered a safe haven to many people irrespective of religion, ethnicity and language throughout history. This tradition having its roots in the 15th century with the Sephardic Jews fled from Europe to Turkey, continues today with millions of Syrians. And of course, Jews including German and Austrian scientists escaping from Nazism to Turkey were no exception.

With this commemoration, we also condemn all kinds of practices of intolerance and violence against individuals or communities based on their religious beliefs and ethnicity, no matter where they are perpetrated. This commemoration should raise consciousness particularly among the young generations about the Holocaust and crimes against humanity. We see all the necessity to remember the Holocaust to face the challenges of today: intolerance, discrimination, xenophobia, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

Contributions of Turkey in “International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)” as the only Muslim country represented and as an active observer since 2008 will further continue. We carry out a number of activities aimed at raising awareness about the Holocaust and we reinforce our efforts in this direction with a variety of educational activities. Therefore, I would also like to underline the importance of continuing to work together to leave a better and peaceful world to the next generations.

Turkey will resolutely pursue its principled stance on the prevention of racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the future as it has done until now.

I once again respectfully commemorate all victims of the Holocaust.

Thank you.

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