O P I N I O N
by Didier Bertin
Reply to the letter of 14 March 2011 from the Chief of Staff of Viviane Reding by Didier Bertin (Society for the Promotion of the European Human Rights Model)
PREFACE: We have started to exchange letters with Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission and her Chief of Staff Martin Selmayr regarding our opposition in the name of European Values to the dangerous tendency to consider that the former Communist regimes committed crimes equivalent to those of Nazism and thus undermining the uniqueness of the Holocaust.
We have noted in your last letter that European Union has allocated resources to finance programs safeguarding the memory of the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes including Nazism. We thus understand that Nazism is now considered as a totalitarian regime among others and has lost its usual specificity of symbol of the highest degree of horror reached in our civilized word.
We think that this new approach of Nazism is an unfortunate consequence of the Prague Declaration of 3 June 2008 whose target was to report the horror of the crimes of the communist regimes. As a matter of fact this declaration has also reclassified the crimes of Nazism by ranking them equal to those of the Communist regimes. In our opinion this comparative statement was not the purpose of the signatories and now has adverse consequences.
It opens the door to Historical revisionism and strengthened the conviction of six countries to modify accordingly their “criminal” laws: Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. It must be noted that Lithuania and Hungary have already promulgated criminal laws in this field including imprisonment of 2 and 3 years respectively.
This comparative initiative is in our opinion unethical and questions half a century of judicial proceedings and trials against Nazi criminals, starting with the trial of Nuremberg.
We have the utmost respect and the greatest sympathy for the victims of the crimes of the Communist regimes, but a requalification in haste of Nazi crimes is a lack of respect for the victims of Nazism and has had perverted effects.
As a result the crimes of Nazism seem alleviated since they are embedded among others. The uniqueness of Nazism and of its creation, the Holocaust is a reference absolutely needed to designate the highest point of barbarity for all peoples “as it was until now.”
The uniqueness of Nazism and of the Holocaust may be understood easily by the fact that 63% of the European Jews were destroyed “mainly” from 1942 after the Wannsee conference until 1945 and even from 1941 in Lithuania, the Baltics and other parts of Eastern Europe.
Any questioning of the uniqueness of Nazism and Holocaust is in our opinion an antisemitic act.
We may also notice that the trivialization of Nazism has eased the rebirth of Nazism in Lithuania. This is particularly shocking since Lithuania saw the highest percentage (96%) of eradication of the Jewish people and since many citizens of this country had participated to the Holocaust.
Nazism is not only a simple authoritarian ideology, but has created and achieved the concept of the mass extermination. The representation of human skulls as the ornaments on the SS uniforms is meaningful. Today the Nazis parade in the streets of Vilnius and display the same SS symbols of death.
The uniqueness of the Holocaust has probably allowed a reduction of antisemitism in Europe without great merit since the remaining Jewish population in Europe became negligible today as compared to 1939 (12% as compared to 60% of the Jewish population in 1939). Questioning this uniqueness opens the doors of Intolerance in opposition to the values promoted by the European Union.
We think that Europe as a whole has a particular duty regarding the memory of the Holocaust; as a matter of fact Europe did not listen to Gustav Stresemann and Aristide Briand who both received the Nobel Peace Prizes in 1926 and by its procrastination had indirectly paved the way of Nazism.
In addition, in the Eastern part of Europe where most of the Jewish population lived before its eradication, the Holocaust had begun before the arrival of German troops and continued briefly after their defeat as a result of the slaughters perpetrated by the local populations.
Nazism is so different from other totalitarian regimes that Europe owes its today freedom to the gigantic sacrifice of 21 million of civilians and soldiers killed by the Nazis and who were all citizens of the USSR.
We would like to stress again that today the Nazis legally march on the main avenues of Vilnius on Independence Day displaying the Swastika, which was duly legalized in 2010 as a national symbol.
Lithuania had in 2008 enacted a law prohibiting the display of Communist and Nazi Symbols but has thus cancelled the part concerning Nazism with legalization of the swastika in public demonstrations. The Museum of Genocide in this country, excludes the Holocaust. In addition it must be noted that Lithuania has never punished any of the war criminals expelled from the USA after the Soviet era.
We must note that this totalitarian attitude contravenes the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which can be legally enforced as the result of the Treaty of Lisbon of 2009.
We thus do think that the European Commission has the necessary legal tools to request the cancellation of the laws criminalizing those who disagree with the equivalence between Communism and Nazism and the regrettable consequences of these laws.
In Hungary the government voted a law prohibiting the denial of the Holocaust on 23 February 2010, which was dismantled on 8 June 2010 by the newly elected rightist and authoritarian government of Viktor Orban. In the new law the word ‘Holocaust’ was deleted and replaced by the wording ‘genocides committed by the communists and the Nazis’. In Hungary 74% of the 596,000 Jews was exterminated principally from 1944 to 1945. Hungary as Lithuania cannot in any way claim suffering as a nation anything similar to that which may be called a genocide. We must also note the significant Hungarian participation in the deportation of Jews for extermination.
We will make simultaneously efforts to obtain declarations regarding the crimes of the Communist regimes without adverse comparative statement.