On Thursday January 23, 2020, 47 heads of states and governments gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. A historic event. Crif President Francis Kalifat accompanied the French President's trip to Israel. He told us about the highlights of Emmanuel Macron's journey.
On January 23rd, they were 47 heads of state and government, in Jerusalem, to remember the 6 million Jews exterminated by the Nazis. During the international ceremony of remembrance organized at Yad Vashem, time seemed to have stopped, giving way to meditation and remembrance.
This commemoration opened the 5th International Forum on the Shoah which highlights the preservation of the memory of the Shoah and the fight against current antisemitism.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke first and delivered a meaningful adress. Speeches by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President of the European Jewish Congress Moshe Kantor, then leaders and representatives of the Allied countries Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Mike Pence and Prince Charles punctuated the ceremony. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also spoke and reminded the Germans of their responsibility to act against antisemitism.
Joining forces against antisemitism was the aim of this historic ceremony. In front of a large audience - including a hundred of Holocaust survivors - the leaders and state representatives affirmed a common desire to fight against antisemitism, racism and all forms of discrimination, and reiterated their total commitment in the fight for the Holocaust remembrance.
Watch the entire official ceremony
French President Emmanuel Macron speech starts at 1:52:00
Le Crif - You are coming back from Israel where you accompanied French President Emmanuel Macron's trip. What were the highlights of this trip?
Francis Kalifat - This is the President's first trip to Israel since the beginning of his mandate. Emmanuel Macron's trip was centered around the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Obviously, the international commemoration ceremony that took place in Yad Vashem was the highlight of the President's visit.
He also went to the Roglit memorial near Jerusalem to pay tribute to the Jewish deportees from France. It is the first time that a French President has been there.
We also have to note the historic visit of Emmanuel Macron to the Western Wall. No other French President in the course of his mandate had so far attended. It is a very strong act.
The President also met with the French community established in Israel. Beyond the important speech he made, he also had an opportunity to discuss with the French people living in Israel today.
The visit of the Minister of Interior Christophe Castaner to the cemetery of Givat Shaul to honor the French victims of antisemitism was also an important moment of the trip. I accompanied the Minister for this visit and I can tell you it was very emotional. Along with the families of the victims, we gathered at the graves of the victims of the Toulouse attack, the HyperCacher attack, Ilan Halimi, and Sarah Halimi.
Le Crif - You are talking about the President's meeting with the French community established in Israel. What were the key notes from the speech he gave?
Francis Kalifat - It was a strong and sincere speech. The President recalled that antizionism, when it expresses the delegitimization of Israel, is a form of antisemitism.
He also told the community about the amount of letters he received regarding the Sarah Halimi case and the decision to find the suspect criminally irresponsible. "The question of criminal responsibility is an affair for the judges, the question of antisemitism is one for the Republic." he said stressing that the antisemitic character of the murder was not to be discussed. Following his speech, he was able to chat for a bit with the French established in Israel as well as with Sarah Halimi's brother.
He also assured the French community in Israel of a coming official bilateral trip.
Le Crif - As you said, the international commemoration ceremony held yesterday at Yad Vashem was the highlight of the presidential trip.
Francis Kalifat - What happened at Yad Vashem yesterday is historic. Forty-seven leaders and state representatives - kings, presidents, prime ministers - came together to show a united movement against antisemitism, to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to say "never again". It is a remarkable symbol.
The speeches delivered were strong and committed, especially the one of the French President. Everyone was not able to express themselves, but each State represented proved that the fight against antisemitism and racism was a common goal for the nations of the world.