The greatest obligation and mission we have to the victims of 20th-century criminal totalitarianism is to maintain the evidence of those horrific crimes.
There are symbolic gestures, and there are facts. Undoubtedly, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Auschwitz, the former German death camp which serves as a focal point of the totalitarian crimes of the 20th century, was a symbolic gesture.
It was her first visit to Auschwitz after 14 years of governing. Yet, despite Nazi Germany building its factories of death in many different parts of Europe, Poland is the country the memories of those horrific events are cared for and memorialized.
In other countries, the cemeteries of those crimes are being degraded and their terrain privatized. A dark example, and one of many, is the story of the Gusen concentration camp gate in Austria, which was sold and later transformed into a private villa. This is how material proof of how totalitarian crime is vanishing in Europe.
Memory is the result of collective work and can undergo transformation through the next generations.
Maintaining existing evidence of the criminal totalitarianism in Europe is our greatest responsibility towards the victims and ourselves. That is why we must work against those who wish to vanish these important pieces of evidence.
After all, opposing totalitarianism and surviving in the face of doom is the most important tale Europe has to tell about humanity, for which key years like 1939, 1944 and 1980, all serve as grave reminders of the sacrifices that were made.
At the same time, we must not play cheap political games while using our own victims but instead work hard to preserve their memory for the common good.
Despite all the debate concerning the historic politics of the state, we still do not have a central, national place of remembrance of the Second World War and the millions it killed. This shows that we still have a lot of hard work and understanding ahead of us.