Video message by Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the prisoners of Sachsenhausen concentration camp

19.04.2020 - Speech

A death every three hours.

Emil Büge covertly documented daily life in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in his notes, “1470 Concentration Camp Secrets”. He was imprisoned there for four years, from 1939 to 1943. He jotted down the horror on scraps of paper - prisoners who were starved, frozen or worked to death. They were, he wrote, “hit, abused, tortured, beaten to death, hanged, shot dead, strangled, gassed, poisoned and killed by other unbelievably despicable forms of mistreatment”.

These prisoners came from over 40 countries and included many people from France, Poland and the Netherlands. They were Red Army soldiers, Jews, political prisoners, homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. They lost their lives in Sachsenhausen. A human life was lost every three hours.

It is thanks to Sachsenhausen Memorial that we can commemorate the victims in a fitting way despite the current circumstances. Thank you very much indeed for making this possible! I wish to tell the survivors and their descendants that my Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz and I would have liked to have been with you in person today. At present, however, this video message is the only way we can express our deepest sympathy for the victims and all of you and show our respect. Jacek Czaputowicz and I are doing this together, and I am profoundly grateful for this special sign of the close ties between Germany and Poland.

Over 20,000 people lost their lives in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. If we held a minute of silence for each of them, there would be silence for two weeks.

But the fight against forgetting may not be silent. When remembrance is vilified as a “cult of guilt” and victims reframed as perpetrators, be this in Germany or abroad, we Germans cannot remain silent. The responsibility for our history makes this imperative, as does respect for the victims of Germany’s delirium of destruction. In its chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Germany is therefore focusing on the fight against those who deny or distort the history of the Holocaust.

We must all become witnesses in order to make society immune against the poison of hatred and antisemitism. That is why we decided last week to provide funding for Yad Vashem’s remembrance work in Jerusalem for a further ten years. Every story, every name that we ensure is not forgotten turns us into witnesses. Witnesses of what was. Witnesses of what must never happen again. Witnesses who speak up loudly when Jews, Sinti and Roma are attacked again today on our streets. Demonstrating solidarity with the victims and showing courage in the face of the perpetrators that is what remembering means today.

And that is the message being sent today from Sachsenhausen and the many memorial sites in Germany and Europe.


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