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7 November 2012 - “The Holocaust by Bullets: Uncovering the Reality of Genocide” - Statement by Mr Martin Briens, chargé d’Affaires a.i. of France to the United Nations

Mr. Under-Secretary-General

Mr. Director,

Father Desbois,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is especially important for France to be present here today because our country experienced a tragedy this year.

On March 19, 2012, in front of the “Ohr Tora” Jewish school in the city of Toulouse, a terrorist killed Jonathan Sandler, his two children Arieh and Gabriel, as well as Myriam Monsonego, and seriously injured a boy of 16, Aaron Bijaoui.

All French people were horrified by this tragedy. On November 1, 2012, President Hollande and the Prime Minister of Israel, remembered together the victims and shared, together, the families’ grief.

On this occasion, Mr. François Hollande reaffirmed the determination of the French Republic to tirelessly combat anti-Semitism in all its forms, the acts as wells as the words, including – and I quote – “behind all the causes that serve as pretexts or masks. Anti- Semitism will be prosecuted by all means, wherever it is spread, especially on social networks which grant anonymity to hatred.”

He also reaffirmed that terrorism concerns us all. The individual who killed Jewish people in front of this school had, a few days before, deliberately fired at 3 French soldiers: Imad Ibn Ziaten, Abel Chennouf, and Mohamed Legouad. Three men who had chosen to serve their country and their fellow citizens.

We must show no weakness in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and terrorism and we must break these destructive cycles as swiftly as possible.

Allow me to mention in this respect the importance of Father Desbois’s work.

His work is vital.


The Holocaust took place last century.

Nearly 70 years ago. We’re entering a period in which the last eyewitnesses of the Holocaust will soon be gone, leaving us alone with the responsibility of perpetuating its memory.

Alone, without the survivors.

What part of this memory, their memory, will we be able to preserve in order to transform it into History? What universal lessons can we draw from the Holocaust? And how can we promote this universality without lessening what constitutes the unique nature of this crime?

Father Desbois’s association, Yahad-in Unum, aims relentlessly at mapping the mass graves of the Jewish and Roma victims of the Holocaust and recording the testimony of the last remaining eye-witnesses.

Father Desbois teaches us that we thought we knew what the Jewish and Roma people suffered during the Second World War. And he teaches us that we didn’t really know. He teaches us that information society, intangible by nature, can allow us to forget, to deny things. But we cannot forget this lesson. Because it’s our sacred duty. To use Robert Badinter’s words at the Vel d’Hiv in 1992, “The dead are listening to us.”

It’s true in Europe, it’s true in Rwanda, it’s true in Darfur and it remains true today in Syria. It’s true wherever governments seek to destroy communities simply because of what they are.

In our fight against racism, anti-Semitism and terrorism, which are fueled by ignorance, our principal strength flows from our unity.

Even today, we must stand united in fighting fanaticism and rejecting false conflations. Islamic radicalism is not Islam. We must ensure that everyone receives protection regardless of his or her origins, beliefs or religion. The United Nations is equipped with instruments in this regard. The international community also stands united on the resolutions introduced at the General Assembly on the fight against religious intolerance. This unity must be preserved.

The Secretary-General has also rallied us on education, notably through his “Education for All” initiative. We have created mechanisms that must ensure that the famous expression “Never Again” is an operational concept rather than merely an expression This evening, I am pleased to welcome the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Adama Dieng, and Ms. Mosoti, representing the International Criminal Court, whose establishment was anticipated as far back as 1948 and which is now a reality. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs Fatou Bensouda, briefed the Security Council this very morning. With such instruments, no one can plead ignorance. Inaction is no longer acceptable.

This is the message I want to convey on behalf of France.

Thank you.

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