Statement by H. E. Mr. Svetozar Marović,
(President of Serbia and Montenegro
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 16 March 2005)

Esteemed President Katzav,
Esteemed Director General Amrami,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today as we are attending the opening ceremony of the new wing of the Yad Vashem Memorial Center, I wish at this place that is holy to all the world’s Jews, to briefly remind you of the innocent Jewish victims who perished during World War Two in territory of Serbia and Montenegro. Before World War Two around 34,000 Jews were living in Serbia and Montenegro accounting for almost half of all the Jews in the former Yugoslavia. Close to 29,000 or 86 per cent of them found their death in Nazi pogroms.

At the memorial Center here there are names of no more than around 16,000 Jews from our country. Regrettably, this list will never be exhaustive. Namely, the Union of Jewish Municipalities and its Historical Museum have not been in a position to gather individual data according to the Yad Vashem rules because, regrettably, it was not only whole families but entire local Jewish communities in particular towns that went missing in the Shoah.

Today when we have come together in remembrance of Jewish victims, it is with pride and gratitude that I wish to underscore the fact that a number of Jews fought successfully and courageously on the side of the anti-fascist, people’s liberation movement in the former Yugoslavia, that is in Serbia and Montenegro, and that around 1,500 laid down their lives in that struggle. At this place I wish to say thank you to them on behalf of all the people who are committed to the fight against fascism.

I also extend thanks to the 152 citizens of Serbia who have been proclaimed by Israel to the Righteous Among Nations for they, too, among other, prove that the nations living in Serbia and Montenegro have profound anti-fascist and pro-democratic feelings and were able, when it was necessary, to expose evil for what it was and put up resistance against it. From this place I wish to express my profound belief that today, too, they are able to recognize the rising anti-Semitism in Europe, an evil that, regrettably, my country has not been spared either. I hope that the MPS of the parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro will give expression to their awareness of the need to fight all kinds of racial and religious discrimination and intolerance and particularly of the need to persistently nip anti-Semitism in the bud by soon passing relevant laws and regulations which will stipulate severe penalties for anti-Semitic assaults as well for attempts at Holocaust denial. We are duty bound to do it by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by all other international legal instruments in force on the protection of human rights and liberties.

This is particularly to us from the Western Balkans. As a representative of a country that in recent history experienced the worst crimes committed in Europe since the World War Two, I can credibly testify about the degradation of basic human values, degradation of human life, misery and poverty which a country can plunge into an historically, very short period of time.

I am saying all this because, together with the other countries formed on this ashes of the former Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro paid a heavy toll to lack of tolerance and surplus of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and violations of most fundamental human rights. As a result, the once peaceful fairly prosperous country entered in just few months not only the abyss of inter-ethnic hatred but also into years of inter-ethnic wars.

Even today we are paying, and will go on paying for a long time to come, the price of senseless political projects. Today we cannot restore the victims of all wars and internal conflicts back to life. What we can and must do is to put on trial the instigators and perpetrators of those crimes, thus showing that impunity is not and must not be an option open to them. At the same time, this is a message to all that crimes and violations of international humanitarian law cannot and will not be tolerated in our country nor, for that matter, anywhere else in the democratic and civilized world.

For us in Serbia and Montenegro, and the same applies to our neighbors, the prerequisites for durable peace and reconciliation are primarily the cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at the Hague and in parallel, the establishment of the rule of law based on principles of tolerance, protection of minorities and all round promotion of human rights, and liberties in the way the international community expects us to do it.

The education of youth play a particular part in overall efforts to overcome the legacy of the past – racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and any other kind of discrimination, for as we say in our country the young will inherit the world. We in Serbia and Montenegro are seeking to upgrade the system of education by increasingly promoting the cultural and religious diversity, which is present in such abundance in our country as well as through the region. For centuries these differences were a bond between us, and a source of spiritual enrichment and there is no reason why that should not be so in the future as well. In addition, we wish for our society to be open to all positive influences and receptive to the achievements of the entire democratic world so that our society can become more tolerant, more freedom-loving and more harmonious.

In this spirit I should like from this holy place to call all of you present here to keep on resisting evil and, at the same time, continue developing all forms of mutual communications and cooperation. I call our fellow countrymen the Jews that since Holocaust number merely 3,000 people in our country to serve also in the future as a bridge connecting people from our two countries no matter which religion, race or ethnic group they belong to. This remains our duty because of the victims whose names are inscribed here at the Yad Vashem Memorial Center, because of the victims that are more numerous but whose names and exact numbers will never become known, and finally because of our Righteous Among Nations.

Thank you.





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