31 Jan 2020

The European Parliament's solemn commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz


The Revd Canon Jack McDonald shares his experience of attending the EP's solemn commemoration this week:

I was privileged to be asked by Bishop Robert to represent him at the European Parliament's official commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the extermination camp in Auschwitz on 29 January - Bishop Robert was attending the College of Bishops in London and so could not attend himself.

This is a cliché, but sometimes clichés are true: it was a profoundly moving event, ably chaired by the President of the EP, David Sassoli.

Two survivors of Auschwitz, one now British, the other Italian, both very elderly and frail, spoke about their experiences in the death camp. One of them, in a gesture of almost unlimited poignancy, played the cello for us.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, replied in a speech explicitly given as a German citizen which hammered home the message that the EU was born out of the ashes of European culture represented by Auschwitz, and that unambiguous action against racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and discrimination would always be part and parcel of the core work of the EU. The applause was rapturous and heartfelt - I found it difficult to stop applauding after the survivors spoke.

When I looked at the United Kingdom's flag displayed in the EP hemicycle, which will be taken down permanently on 1 February, I felt an anguish I have never known in my adult life outside family death.  It is deeply short-sighted for the UK to leave the EU and to fight against the rising tide of antisemitism alone.

The Revd Canon Jack McDonald is President of the Central Committee of the Anglican Church in Belgium.


Banner photo: European Commission