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International Auschwitz Committee Memorial Ceremony for Roman Kent in Berlin

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the International Auschwitz Committee's memorial service for Roman Kent at the State Representation of Lower Saxony. Photo: Eva Oertwig/SCHROEWIG

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the International Auschwitz Committee's memorial service for Roman Kent at the State Representation of Lower Saxony. Photo: Eva Oertwig/SCHROEWIG




Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier paid tribute to the former President of the International Auschwitz Committee, Roman Kent, as a champion of the rights of the Shoah survivors.

“His legacy obliges us to oppose antisemitism and racism of all kinds.” Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave this assurance at the memorial ceremony for Roman Kent. The President of the International Auschwitz Committee passed away in May at the age of 92. President Steinmeier said it is with “profound sadness and immense gratitude” that he remembers Roman Kent. And he warned that Auschwitz marked not only the experience of the monstrous in human form, but also the recognition that “the beast lurks in us all”.

Roman Kent experienced the abysses of humanity, and became a “pragmatic, strongly assertive champion of the rights and needs of the survivors”. Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Roman Kent reminded us of Auschwitz, and “as President of the International Auschwitz Committee, he did not mince his words about Auschwitz. He spoke out more powerfully than almost anyone else with his warnings about what exactly happened there”.

In his speech Marian Turski, Roman Kent’s recently elected successor as president of the IAC, remembered the man who had been a friend since their youth.
Marian Turski: “Three class mates from the Lodz ghetto. Noach Flug, Roman Kent and myself. As fate would have it, we each took on the same position. Noach Flug was president of the International Auschwitz Committee until his death in 2011. We then elected Roman Kent. He passed away in May this year and now, according to the wishes of the IAC Presidium, it is now my turn to take up his office. Together with distinguished representatives of the second and third generations, we will carry on reminding the world of our appalling experiences as former prisoners of Auschwitz, in these times when the world is being threatened by violence, fragmentation, hatred, incitement and populism.“

Marian Turski also spoke about the children’s book entitled “Lala”. Roman Kent wrote the story about the little dog that meant a great deal to him in his youth. “He has proved that the suffering caused by the Holocaust, the casting out of people who were considered ‘different’, does not have to be illustrated with statistics and images of annihilation – the things that are important for adults. The example of the wonderful friendship, loyalty and love of the dog Lala shows how we can empathize with people who, out of hatred, are imprisoned behind barbed wire. And this is perhaps the best way to introduce a child to the many questions surrounding the Holocaust.”

Auschwitz - Grossrosen - Flossenburg. Quite apart from numerous lucky coincidences, a prisoner needed a strong will to live in order to survive the camps. In his speech Marian Turski said that Roman was worried about saving the life of his younger brother Leon. This spurred him on. Roman saved his brother, and his brother Leon was the source of Roman’s motivation, to live, to survive and for whose sake he would be brave.

Marian Turski remembered the life and work of Roman Kent in the USA and his dedicated commitment for organizations such as the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, and the Claims Conference.

“The legacy and the messages that Roman Kent left to us are immense. It is our duty and our privilege to carry them foreward, to develop them further and to realize their full potential.”

Marian Turski closed with Roman Kent’s key conviction: “At home and in schools, we must teach our children tolerance and understanding, because tolerance is something we do not have from the outset, it is something that has to be taught. We need to instil in our children the knowledge and insight that hate is never right, and love is never wrong.”

Adriana Gilbo, Youth and Trainee Representative of Volkswagen AG in Wolfsburg, described her meetings with Roman Kent in Oświęcim. Rüdiger Mahlo of the Jewish Claims Conference remembered Roman Kent’s profound dedication. And in conclusion, Roman Kent’s son Jeffrey Kent, said his father was an extraordinary role model.

At the end of the memorial ceremony Christoph Heubner, the Executive Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee said: “We will take good heed of all the memories and insights that Roman Kent has given to us along the way, and we will pass this on, especially in our work with young people. We will be publishing today’s speeches in a special booklet.”
Click here for the video of the memorial ceremony for Roman Kent: IAK YouTube Kanal

Click here for the text of the speech by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier