The groundbreaking for the memorial took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 29, 2018. The architectural and sculptural complex by Saratov architect Oleg Fandeyev is based on the idea of fight, moral fibre and resistance.
The ceremony was also attended by Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities Alexander Boroda, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Centre Viktor Vekselberg.
The President also attended the exhibition He Who Saves a Single Life, Saves an Entire Universe. Righteous Among the Nations and Their Stories, which is dedicated to those who helped to save Jewish people during the Nazi occupation of Europe.
Speech at the ceremony to unveil the monument to the heroes of the Resistance in Nazi concentration camps and Jewish ghettos
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, ladies and gentlemen,
We gathered here today to unveil the monument to the Heroes of the Resistance in Nazi concentration camps and Jewish ghettos. I am very happy to be here with you today.
Monuments are good, and they are necessary. But the most important thing for us is to keep the memory of those events in our hearts, in our souls, so that the tragedies that we are talking about today never happen again. What happened to the Jewish people is, without a doubt, one of the most tragic and simultaneously great pages in the history of not only the Jewish people alone, but global history as well.
The symbolic stone in the foundation of this monument was laid in the year marking the 75th anniversary of the Sobibor uprising. Prisoners of one of the most merciless death camps did what seemed to be impossible: their courage, willpower and desperate desire to resist their torturers broke the machine of destruction that the Nazi believed to be well-established and absolutely invincible.
Their feat, their fearlessness as well as the willpower of the uprising leader, Red Army lieutenant Alexander Pechersky, is astounding.
Unfortunately, most names of the heroes of uprisings in concentration camps and ghettos are now impossible to find; only a few survived.
We cannot name every participant of the uprisings in Warsaw or Bilyastock ghettos, every prisoner of war that was tortured, humiliated and annihilated as they continued resisting in both small and large groups, such as the international Mauthausen committee.
Unarmed and exhausted prisoners of various ages and nationalities, who were practically doomed to die, found strength to remain human in that infernal grinding machine, planned rebellions and escape, put up resistance and did what they could to support and save one another.
They stood up for their right to live, as well as the very idea of human dignity, which Nazism with its deadly ideology of national and racial superiority tried to take away from people and entire nations. Yes, indeed, they are victims – prisoners at concentration camps are victims – but at the same time, they are undoubtedly victors. We bow our heads, remembering each one of them.
The mass, methodical annihilation of people is a heinous crime of Nazism that cannot be forgiven. Nor can we ever justify the voluntary accomplices in those evil deeds, like Bandera followers, members of the Waffen-SS divisions and nationalist gangs, who caused death in the Baltics, Ukraine and other European countries.
The Holocaust is a never-healing wound and a terrible lesson and warning to all living and future generations.
Tragedies and crimes against humanity like these must not fall into oblivion. The memory of them is a guarantee that the horror of the Holocaust – a cold-blooded and purposeful annihilation of whole nations – will never happen again.
Next year we will mark the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory. Our common responsibility – that of politicians and public and religious figures – is to preserve and pass on to the next generations the truth about the war, the feat of our people in the war, of our allies and of the suffering and terrible death of millions of innocent people.
This truth is our protection and our civilisational immunity to any repetition of similar things and of any attempts to fan the flames of xenophobia, nationalism and anti-Semitism.
I believe the Memorial to the Heroes of the Resistance in Nazi camps and Jewish ghettos will become another symbol of our common memory.
Thank you for your attention.