The President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, during her working visit to the State of Israel, attended a Ceremony on the occasion when Branko Lustig presented the Visual Centre of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem with the Oscar that he was awarded by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his work as a producer on the motion picture “Schindler’s List”…
Addressing the survivors of the Holocaust, the families and descendants of those who perished in the Holocaust, President Grabar-Kitarović expressed her appreciation for the invitation extended to her by Branko Lustig and for his efforts in promoting tolerance and in providing education and teaching the young generations in Croatia in order for the events that occurred during the Second World War to never happen again. Too many times we have said “never again” but, unfortunately, we still do see atrocities and evil all around the world, said the President, adding that we have a common duty to work towards promoting tolerance.
“This is a special place, a place where you try to tell an incredible story of unspeakable horrors,” said President Grabar-Kitarović, adding that after her relatively brief visit today at Yad Vashem she has to congratulate those involved for the great work that has been done. She expressed her gratitude to the Museum for the cooperation established with Croatia and the Croatian institutions that ensure that we maintain the memory of the Holocaust, of the 6 million people who perished in the Holocaust, especially the 1.5 million children. “For me today, being here as the President of Croatia, but also being here as a human being and as a mother, it is a difficult experience. It makes me think about what we need to do next when we leave this place,” said the Croatian President, adding that it is an experience that helps us understand that values and the truth can never be taken for granted.
“Yad Vashem is a place that tells the story of humankind’s deepest atrocities and deepest suffering. It is a place of both darkness but also of light, of horror and hope, of history and future,” said the President, adding that the Oscar is an expression of taking artistic expression to the highest level, but also an expression of our gratitude, and as a beacon of light that the Righteous Among the Nations have made the right choice in times of darkness.
“At this solemn place, I also want to express deep sorrow for all the victims who perished in the Holocaust in Croatia at the hands of the collaborationist Ustashi regime during the Second World War – victims from the Jewish community, but also many Roma, Serbs and Croats, and all those who were deemed to be enemies of the regime of the time,” said the Croatian President, and expressed deepest sympathy with the pain and the sufferings of the survivors of the Holocaust of Croatian origin, their family members and the descendants of those who are no longer with us. “That part of our history cast a shadow, however we have faced our past and have accepted it for the future,” she said. She pointed out that the Ustasha regime did not reflect the true aspiration of the Croatian people for an independent state, and that the modern Republic of Croatia is founded on the anti-fascist resistance as well as on the Homeland War.
“Today, Croatia is a proud member of the European Union and NATO, which is based on the common values that we share with Israel and with the community of nations, the values of democracy, freedom, the rights, and respect for every individual, regardless of their ethnic, religious or any other background,” underlined President Grabar-Kitarović.
Announcing the initiative to build a memorial in Zagreb in honour of all the victims of the Holocaust, President Grabar-Kitarović invited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum to further cooperate with Croatia in those efforts and expressed confidence that the monument will soon be unveiled, so that we can have a place to deeply bow in tribute to all the victims. “I take this opportunity to condemn every totalitarian regime – be it Nazism, fascism or communism,” said the President and stressed education as being the strongest weapon against every form of radical ideology, divisions, hatred and racism. “We must tell the truth because today, here, with our bare naked souls, we are stripped of all the worldly glitter of our functions and decorations. We are here as human beings. Not only schools will teach our children the right choices, we, as parents, as human beings, as sisters and brothers, as daughters and sons also have that responsibility,” noted the President of the Republic.
Toward the end of her address, President Grabar-Kitarović paid particular respect to the 111 Righteous Among the Nations from Croatia, those who have already been awarded this high honour, and those who are yet be honoured. She concluded her address with a quote from the famous poem of the Israeli poet Haim Hepher: “In front of you Righteous, I bow”.
The President of the Republic took a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance and wrote a message in the Guestbook.