Speech by Consul General of Switzerland in Shanghai at the Opening Ceremony of the Exhibition “The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors”

Time:2019/12/13 15:07:25        

Opening of “The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors”


Jewish Refugee Museum, 12th December 2019


Dear Mr. Chen (Museum Director)


Dear Ms. Zhang (Deputy Director of Hongkou District FAO)


Dear Dr. Propper(Consul General of Israel)


Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon!




-It is a great honour for me to welcome you to today’s opening of the exhibition The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivors at the Jewish Refugee Museum.


-I am delighted that so many of you are here today to bear witness to the stories told by the last Holocaust survivors in Switzerland. This exhibition gives voice to the women and men who built a new life in Switzerland after surviving the Holocaust.


-We shall remember that this exhibition opens at an appropriate time to commemorate the victims of genocides and massacres. Monday, December 9, marked the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime by the U.N. General Assembly and tomorrow we observe the National Memorial Dayfor the victims of the Nanjing Massacre.


Main part:


-Before coming to Shanghai last year, I was working at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations in New York. To remember the victims of the Holocaust, The Last Swiss Holocaust Survivorswas shown at the United Nations in January 2018. It was there that I was confronted with the moving stories of the survivors in Switzerland for the first time.


-Since then, the exhibition has been shown in different cities throughout Switzerland, and travelled to Singapore, the United States, Israel, Albania and Italy– and now finally to Shanghai.


-Shanghai was a safe harbour for more than 30,000 Jews fleeing the Holocaust in Europe between 1933 and 1941.[1] During one of the greatest tragedies of the 20thcentury, the haven in Shanghai shone as one the few bright lights.


-In recent years, the governments of Shanghai Municipality and the Hongkou district have made admirable efforts to restore and preserve the historical traces of Jewish life in the city. The former synagogue, where we are today, stands as one of these fine examples.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


-This exhibition is one of many projects resulting from Switzerland’s chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which ended last year.


During its chairmanship, Switzerland has laid a focus on the education of youths.[2]Teaching awareness and remembrance of the victims is important to remind younger generations that the Holocaust concerns us all.


-The Gamaraal Foundation and the Archive of Contemporary History of ETH Zurich have prioritized education in the development of this exhibition as well. Only last year, they have been jointly awarded the Dr. Kurt Bigler Prize Award for excellence in Holocaust Education.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


-Switzerland is strongly committed to ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust lives on and is protected for future generations.


-Now, almost 75 years after the end of the Second World War, we find ourselves at a historically decisive moment regarding the knowledge transfer of the Holocaust. When the last survivors pass away, we will lose the last witnesses of that period.


-Therefore, we must realize the urgency in preserving and recording their stories. The accounts of the witnesses in this exhibition keep the memory of the atrocities committed alive. Their testimonies raise awareness of the consequences of racism, discrimination, and anti-Semitism.


-By dealing with the past, we can learn from it to address the present and the future.


-I would like to end my speech with a quote from the Italian holocaust survivor, Liliana Segre: “Indifference is guiltier than violence itself. The moral apathy of who turns to the other side: it happens also today towards racism and other horrors of the world. Memory is a vaccine against indifference.”




-I hope this moving exhibition will reach a broad audience here in Shanghai and I wish it the best of success!


-Thank you.


OlivierZehnder, Consul General of Switzerland in Shanghai


[1]Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum,