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Speech by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo in memory of the Jews handed over to Nazi Germany, 6 November 2023

Government Communications Department
Publication date 6.11.2023 19.21
Pääministeri Orpo laskee seppelettä luovutettujen juutalaisten muistomerkille Helsingin Tähtitorninmäellä

Speech by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo in memorial of the Jews handed from Finland over to Nazi Germany, 6 November 2023.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Thank you for inviting me to join you today in remembering.

On 6 November 1942, Finland handed over eight Jews to Nazi Germany. All of them, with the exception of one, were killed in a concentration camp. All of them had come to Finland as refugees.

To honour their memory, the Finnish Holocaust Remembrance Association has installed eight commemorative stones in the pavements in front of their last homes. These stones, called Stolpersteine, are small but meaningful. They serve as concrete reminders of the darkest moments in our history. A total of 75,000 stones have been installed around the world, and the work is still ongoing.

It is our responsibility to remember. It is our responsibility to make sure that this never happens again.

I think it is very important that Klaus Härö is now making a film about Abraham Stiller, who worked to prevent the deportations. The film will make this part of our past more widely known to Finns.

At this moment in time, remembrance feels especially important. The recent terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel was the worst attack against Jews since World War II.

The state of Israel has the right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks in accordance with international law. At the same time, we must emphasise the importance of international humanitarian law. Ordinary Palestinian civilians must be protected. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is getting worse, and civilians must get the aid they need.

As the fighting continues, there is a growing risk that the conflict will spread. We in Finland want to work to promote peace.

Throughout Europe, the situation in Gaza has also led to an increase in antisemitism. Jewish communities are concerned. The police have increased their presence around synagogues and Jewish schools in many countries across Europe.

Demonstrating against military action and expressing concern for the safety of civilians are fundamental rights. Inciting antisemitism is not. It is unacceptable.

That said, antisemitism is not a reaction to the situation in the Middle East; it has deep roots that have grown for centuries throughout the history of Europe.

It is important for us, as Europe, as the European Union, to recognise and acknowledge the problem together. We must fight antisemitism together; our common values oblige us to do so. Antisemitism is not only a threat to Jewish communities and the Jewish way of life – it is a threat to the very idea of a free and diverse society, democracy, and the European way of life.

Antisemitism takes many different forms: online hate speech, attacks on Jews, their property and institutions, and the desecration of synagogues, cemeteries and monuments. It can be seen in the everyday lives of Jewish people in the form of inappropriate acts and remarks.

Two years ago, the European Union published its first strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life. Several measures have also been taken at the national level. We must continuously monitor and gather information on antisemitism in Finland. Good cooperation with the Jewish community plays an important role in this work.

In September, our Government submitted a communication to Parliament on promoting equality and non-discrimination and reducing racism in Finland. Of the numerous measures in the communication, I would especially like to highlight these here today:

The Government is preparing to criminalise Holocaust denial. The Holocaust was a horrible chapter in European history. Denying and downplaying the Holocaust, or distorting facts about history, lead to increased ignorance and indifference. These, in turn, are a breeding ground for antisemitism.

It is our responsibility to ensure that accurate and honest information about the Holocaust is passed down to future generations.

In Finland, too, we will begin observing the Memorial Day for the Victims of Persecution as Holocaust Remembrance Day, in line with international practice.

We will invest in the security of the Jewish community. We will work to prevent acts motivated by hate against Jews, Muslims, Christians and other religious groups.

These are individual measures, but they show that the Government considers this an important issue. Everyone has the right to feel safe and welcome in Finland.

Racism and antisemitism have no place in Finland or anywhere in Europe. We will make every effort to eradicate them. It is our responsibility to remember.