Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass and Philippe Perchoc, with Clare Ferguson.
Each year, Parliament marks the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, the state-sponsored, systematic persecution and mass murder of Jews, whom the Nazi regime and its collaborators sought to annihilate along with other persecuted groups, such as Roma and Sinti. The day falls on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in 1945, now 77 years ago. At Thursday’s special plenary meeting in Brussels, Members will hear an address by Margot Friedländer, a Holocaust survivor.
As an ethnic cleansing process designed to erase any trace of Jewish life from European culture, the Holocaust – referred to in Yiddish as Khurbn (destruction) – brought the Yiddish language almost to extinction in the 20th century. However, many Jewish communities still use Yiddish, and the language and culture are enjoying a revival. The EU has adopted a cultural heritage approach to Yiddish language and culture, with various projects devoted to Jewish culture supported by Creative Europe funding. Nevertheless, Europe is not playing a leading role in the process of reviving and preserving the culture of the language, and it remains to be seen whether Yiddish will end up with the same fate as Latin.
The expropriation, state-sponsored discrimination and persecution of the Jews by the Nazi regime began in 1933, followed by pogroms and their mass incarceration in concentration camps, allowing the Nazis to seize Jewish property for the regime’s museums, but also enabling some prominent Nazis to develop their own art collections. Trade in looted art flourished, in both Europe and the United States, as a result of the ensuing chaos. While works of art found in Western-occupied zones were returned to the countries from which they had been seized, with the expectation that they would be restored to their rightful owners, this did not always happen. International efforts continue to this day to pursue the restitution of cultural property looted by Nazis and their collaborators, not only as an act of justice, but also in recognition of the Jewish contribution to flourishing cultural and artistic life in Europe.
Since 1995, the European Parliament has adopted resolutions drawing attention to the obligation to remember the events of the Holocaust, not only through commemorations but also through education. In November 2018, the EU became a permanent international partner of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).