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A Day of Holocaust Remembrance and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity has been organised in our country each year since 2004. Switzerland has embraced the commemorative activities advocated by the Council of Europe and by the United Nations. As the UN Secretary-General observed, "Today, we remember the millions of victims of the Nazis - nearly one third of the Jewish people and countless other minorities - who suffered atrocious acts of discrimination, deprivation, cruelty and murder."
Remembrance and education: both are essential
It was here in Europe that unprecedented industrial, administrative and military means were set in motion to exterminate millions of people over the course of several years. To understand how this was possible, we must gain greater knowledge of the past and reflect on the lessons that can be drawn. Simply recalling the events of a mythical past is not enough. If not placed in their proper context and in a broader perspective, isolated events alone will not enable us to preserve a true memory. Even the most appalling and disturbing images need to be analysed. We therefore need to dedicate time to ensuring that knowledge of this stain in the history of our continent and our civilisation is passed on to younger generations.
Remembering the past to preserve the future
The memories of the victims of the Nazis and historic publications allow us to remember these tragic events, the traces of which the perpetrators sought to conceal and erase. There are, however, still too many people who remain in denial, even though they are a minority. We must - without compromise - continue and never cease to combat holocaust denial.
Since 1945, numerous and considerable efforts have been made to prevent further crimes against humanity. Unfortunately extreme and large-scale acts of violence still create suffering throughout the world. History never repeats itself in exactly the same manner. However, it is essential that remembrance of the Holocaust and knowledge about its history be accompanied by efforts to educate and raise awareness, and by the political will to prevent exterminations and to act before it is too late.
Diversity and solidarity, two Swiss qualities
Remembrance of the Holocaust and the rejection of totalitarianism reflect Swiss qualities. Indeed, I have already had occasion to emphasise that since 1848, five qualities have defined the very essence of our country: prosperity, security, diversity, progress and solidarity. These qualities are not inherent, but are the result of constant efforts, because none can be acquired for all eternity. The preservation of these qualities requires social and political efforts. Education is also needed if fanaticism is to be rejected.
Switzerland's diversity is expressed in the coexistence of different languages, religions and cultures. The Swiss Confederation has embodied tolerance and the desire of people to live together peacefully since 1848, and it will continue to do so in the future.
Solidarity must continue to be a living tradition in Switzerland. It also takes on an international dimension when it comes to victims. Preparing for the future means taking steps today to prevent the crimes that have all too often devastated humanity.