Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 27 June 2017
(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)
I would like to thank the Associazione Nazionale Reduci dalla Prigionia (ANRP) [Italian National Association of former POWs] for organising this event. It is an honour to host it here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I am personally very pleased to be sharing this moment with you.
In particular, I want to thank the Chairman, Enzo Orlanducci, the Deputy Chairman, Michele Montagano, the Head of the German Embassy’s Cultural Department, Stefan Schneider, Mr Giovanni Anversa, all the members of the Association and all the families of internees.
In April this year, on the eve of the G7 Meeting of Foreign Ministers, we gathered in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, in an extremely moving ceremony, to pay tribute to the victims of the massacre of August 1944.
The National Park of Peace which now stands there is a constant reminder of the crimes inflicted by Nazi-Fascism on the whole of humanity. This event was the best way for us to start our work at the G7 meeting in Lucca, and for us all to say together and out loud “never again!”.
All these places of remembrance are a perpetual warning not to forget that conflicts have extreme and terrifying consequences.
Preserving and spreading the memory and knowledge of what happened to our internees, to all those civilians and military personnel who suffered, helps us and especially the younger generations stay alert, because in history you can sometimes go backward.
In March 2013, during his meeting with President Joachim Gauck, President Giorgio Napolitano underlined “the determination not to allow the heritage of unity, solidarity and fraternity we have built in Europe to be dissolved”.
A determination we find again in the “Rome Declaration” of 25 March this year, to relaunch with renewed impetus a European Project that continues to be the most extraordinary experiment of peace and prosperity in the world.
European integration has helped Italy and Germany on the way to reconciliation, to restore our friendship in a Europe united by respect for rights, freedoms, minorities and diversities.
The moving embrace between Presidents Napolitano and Gauck on that occasion sealed the solemn shared commitment to ensure that, by building a shared memory, the atrocities of the past are never repeated.
I was deeply touched this year when President Sergio Mattarella and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute, side by side, to the victims of the Fosse Ardeatine. It was the first time this had ever happened.
Today’s meeting gives us an opportunity to take stock of the path we have travelled together, almost ten years since the creation of the Italo-Germany Historical Commission at the 2008 Bilateral Summit in Trieste.
In addition to other symbolic gestures, I would like to highlight some other examples of tangible cooperation, including the “Italo-German Fund for the Future”, which has sustained initiatives to keep memory alive, supporting the spirit of solidarity and overcoming the risk of selfishness and closed minds.
The “Fund for the Future” has supported around thirty projects, all of them of very great civil and moral value, two of which the ANRP will be presenting today. My hope is that the “Fund for the Future” will continue long “into the future” and – as the ANRP is doing very well – will above all address that “future” to which we are most committed: our young generations, who are less aware of the mistakes and horrors of the past, and of the achievements of Europe during sixty years of peace.
Life is a constant conquest. Every day we face the risk of losing our values and our freedoms unless we defend them.
A Europeanist like Helmut Kohl, who passed away a few days ago, was well aware of this. He said: the future will be ours once we have built the house of Europe… the evil spirits have not been banished from Europe forever … each generation is presented once more with the task of preventing their return.
Memory is the cement that solidifies that common “European identity” of values and freedoms which protects us against the rise of new forms of nationalism. Our noblest task is to safeguard them and their constant rediscovery, so that we can pass them on to the next generations.