Turkey: First official commemoration for Holocaust victims held

İstanbul Governer Hüseyin Avni Mutlu lights a candle at the commemoration ceremony.

 29 January 2011, Saturday / SERTAÇ DALGALIDERE, İSTANBUL

Turkey held its first official commemoration of the Holocaust on International Holocaust Remembrance Day as İstanbul’s governor and other officials joined members of Turkey’s Jewish community to remember the victims of the Nazi era.

 
“We share a 500-year history of peace with our Jewish citizens,” İstanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu told the NTV news channel after the service. “We wanted to share their pain and suffering.”The global day of commemoration was established on Jan. 27 by the United Nations in 2005. The date was picked to coincide with the anniversary of the liberation of notorious death camp Auschwitz by Soviet troops on Jan. 27, 1945.Ambassador Ertan Tezgör, who participated in the ceremony on behalf of the Turkish Foreign Ministry, said in his speech at İstanbul’s biggest synagogue, Neve Şalom, that Turkey is following a principled approach against racism.“Turkey will follow a principled approach regarding the remembrance of the Jewish Holocaust and learn lessons from it as it fights animosity toward foreigners, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

He also said that Yaşar Yakış, chairman of the EU Harmonization Committee in Parliament and former foreign minister, will attend a ceremony on Feb. 1 in Auschwitz, Poland, on behalf of President Abdullah Gül, with Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bağış.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s message at the ceremony commemorated the loss of life, hailing Turkey’s Jewish community. “It is natural result of our culture of living together to share the pain that they [the Jewish community] experienced in the past, as this reflects our tolerance for each other as a state and community. They [Jewish people] are part of our community and will remain as such,” the statement said.

Sami Herman, the head of Turkey’s Jewish People’s Community, said that the Holocaust is a black stain on all of humanity and all people should work to avoid experiencing anything like it in the future.

Nazi Germany opened Auschwitz as a concentration camp in the summer of 1940 after it invaded and occupied Poland. While its first prisoners were Poles, because of its location in the heart of Europe, Germany soon turned it into a center for implementing the “Final Solution,” a plan to kill all of Europe’s Jews. In addition to Jewish community members who participated in the commemoration, also present were İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş; Turkey’s chief rabbi, Ishak Haleva; Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül; Beyoğlu Mayor Ahmet Misbah Demircan; Beşiktaş Mayor İsmail Ünal; Democrat Party (DP) Chairman Namık Kemal Zeybek; Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) İstanbul branch head Nebil İlseven; and Adalar Mayor Mustafa Farsakoğlu.

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