Public opinion, in Poland and across the world, was exceptionally moved by Marian Turski’s speech during the commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Transmissions and retransmissions were seen by millions across the continents. Marian Turski’s words were extensively cited by the most important world media. Hundreds of thousands of people used social media to send each other and comment on this exceptional speech. We continue to receive telephones calls and e-mails at our editorial offices, asking us to thank Mr Turski.
Contempt and intolerance arise step by step
The strength of his message was not just that this was the personal testimony of an Auschwitz survivor, but that Marian above all addressed his words to the generation of “children and grandchildren”, recalling how contempt and intolerance towards “others” arise slowly, step by step, often unobserved. Violence and force can still arise today, just as yesterday, where human rights are trampled, where politicians manipulate history and incite social conflicts, and where people are indifferent to discrimination directed against minorities. In the name of the now ever-smaller group of those who survived Auschwitz, Marian Turski has appealed for the maintenance of vigilance and sensibility to evil, to prevent the rebirth of war and hatred.
It is difficult to imagine a more moving call for peace among peoples than that given by an eye-witness to the greatest crime in history. We think that in the year of the 75th anniversary of the end of the genocidal Second World War, it is fitting that the Nobel Peace Prize should go to an Auschwitz Survivor and that Marian Turski is particularly worthy of this.
The POLIN Museum in Warsaw and world pilgrimage
We would recall that Marian Turski has been one of the main creators, organisers and founders, and is the Chairman of the International Museum Council at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This was conceived not as a museum of death and extermination, but of life and fate intertwined through many centuries for Poles and Jews, who lived together in the same land. He spoke of the museum’s message: “The Holocaust was present in our thoughts because if you see, understand, and comprehend in your imagination what Jewish life in Poland was like throughout a millennium, all the more do you understand the enormity of the blow that was the Holocaust.”
Over many years in his mission as a witness of history, and despite now being 93, Marian has been travelling, or in fact, pilgrimaging around the world: his speeches to the UN General Assembly in New York, UNESCO in Paris, many world organisations and foundations, were heard and taken as a kind of testament from the Holocaust Generation, a voice of warning, but also of hope.
“The worst thing was the humiliation,” he spoke at the UN of his imprisonment at Auschwitz, “that you were not treated as a human being. And especially if you were a Jew, and precisely because you were a Jew, you were not treated as a human being, you were an insect - a louse, a bug, a cockroach. And what do these people do with insects, louse, bugs and cockroaches? They stamp on them, crush them, kill them.” He went on to add: “If we were to choose one lesson, just a few words to say to young people living today, then I would say: empathy and fellow feeling. These are the most important things in life.”
The voice of those whose voices were forever taken away
Marian is himself a journalist and historian, the patron and promotor of numerous books and much research on modern history, a former member of the International Council of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and currently of the International Auschwitz Committee, a member of the Jewish Historical Institute, he has been the head of the history section at the POLITYKA weekly for 60 years. He is, as he himself stresses, simultaneously a Jew and a Pole, one of the last sons of a murdered nation.
We do not know whether Marian Turski has any chance of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. We do believe that he should, but what is important is the very fact of nomination and support for his candidacy. We wish to request this support from varied personalities and circles. In today’s conflictual, turbulent world, there can be few who so very much deserve the Nobel Peace Prize as a man who has taken on himself and fulfils this hardest of heritages, the obligation to be a voice for those whose voices were forever taken away – Marian Turski.
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