“We pay tribute today to the victims of the Holocaust and reaffirm our unwavering commitment against antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate. Europe remembers”, stressed European Parliament President, Roberta Metsola, opening the solemn sitting. Warning that the complicit silence of many made the Nazi horrors possible, she underlined that “the European Parliament is not a place of indifference – we speak against Holocaust deniers, against disinformation and against violence”.
“We will listen to your story. We will take your lessons with us. We will remember”, she concluded, before giving the floor to Ms Shashar.
During her speech, Irene Shashar described how she survived the horrors of Nazism in Warsaw as a “Holocaust Hidden Child”, fleeing through a sewer to the Aryan side of Warsaw where her mother’s friends supported them. Living in Israel today, she said, “I was blessed with the opportunity to have children and grandchildren. I did the very thing Hitler tried so hard to prevent. Hitler did not win!”
Speaking about the ongoing war and the terrorist attacks of 7 October, she said that she left her country “in the wake of violence, murder, rape, and terror” and asked MEPs for their solidarity and support to see the hostages be reunited with their families.
After 7 October “the resurgence of antisemitism means that the hate of the past is still with us”, Ms Shashar warned. “Jews are again not feeling safe living in Europe. After the Holocaust, this should be unacceptable. “Never Again” should truly mean never again.”
Referring to Europe, which was able to set aside old hatred and come together, she declared that her dream was that “my children, all children, live in a peaceful Middle East, one that is free of hate, especially towards us, the Jews. In my dream, Jews find safety and security anywhere they choose to call home. And antisemitism is finally a thing of the past.”
Ending her speech, Ms Shashar concluded that while she had won against Hitler, her grandchildren must now fight for their survival. “I call upon you, the Parliament of Europe, to help make my dream come true. Together with you we can end antisemitism and achieve a lasting peace.”
After Ms Shashar’s speech, MEPs observed a minute’s silence. The ceremony closed with a musical performance by Sheva Tehoval, soprano, and Marcelo Nisinman of “Kaddish” by Maurice Ravel.
Watch the ceremony here.
Born on 12 December 1937 as Ruth Lewkowicz, Irene Shashar survived the Warsaw ghetto. After her father was killed by the Nazis, she escaped the ghetto with her mother and was in hiding for the rest of war. She and her mother then moved to Paris. After her mother’s death, she moved to Peru where she was adopted by relatives. After studying in the US, she moved to Israel at the age 25 and became the youngest faculty member to hold a post at the Hebrew University. Today she lives in Modiin, Israel. In 2023, she published her biography “I won against Hitler”.