Every year, the Dutch Dachau Committee organizes a Dachau lecture in memory of one of the victims or survivors of Dachau concentration camp. With the lectures, the Dutch Dachau Committee aims to pass on the stories, memories, ideas and thoughts of this person to a new generation, and also to pay tribute to a victim or survivor in the presence of family.
especially the Steensma family,
What an honor to be able to give the Dachau lecture here today,
the Dachau lecture that is all about Carel Steensma.
Since the time I worked as mayor in Amstelveen (2005-2005) I am well acquainted with the National Dachau monument on the Bosbaan, the Dutch Dachau Committee and the annual commemorations, of which I have attended several.
Impressive moments that have stayed with me.
That makes it extra special for me to be able to address you today, so many years later.
I have given my lecture the title ‘From Nuremberg to The Hague – the search’ journey to peace and justice’.Although the Nazis were out to cover their crimes with a pseudo-legal sauce, under their rule the law and human rights were always trampled underfoot.
In Nuremberg, after World War II, the world community called war criminals to account for the first time in history.
The Hague, the international city of peace and justice since the end of the nineteenth century, has particularly developed into a center of international criminal law since the 1990s.
In many other ways too, people have been working here for years on a peaceful, just and safe world.And, anyone who wants to study the original archival documents of the Nuremberg trials will have to come to The Hague: they will be apparently kept in the Peace Palace.The organization of the Dachau lecture could not have chosen a better location than the World Forum, formerly the Nederlands Congresgebouw.
In the first place, of course, because the name of Carel Steensma is so closely associated with it.
He, of whom Albert Plesman once said: ‘Carel, you are a builder’, not only supervised the realization – requested to do so by my distant predecessor Mayor Kolfschoten – but he also became the first director of the Congress Building.
In that capacity, Carel Steensma made an important contribution to the development of The Hague as an international conference city.
I’m sure it would have given him satisfaction if he could have witnessed, for example, how in 2005 the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS ) took place, in the presence of US President Obama.
There is a second reason why it is appropriate that we have gathered here today.
The area where the World Forum is located illustrates very well the development that The Hague has seen since 17 has been through.
During the Second World War, this area was largely bare for the construction of the Atlantic Wall.
Die operation and the accompanying evacuation drove thousands of residents of The Hague and Scheveningen from their homes.
Among them were Carel Steensma’s wife Tienk, their two sons Peter and Frank and Tienk’s mother with whom they had previously moved in.
That after the war here, once a wasteland with an anti-tank ditch and other barriers rings, a building arose in which the world can come together, contains a special symbolism.
From the nineties, this part of The Hague would grow into an International Zone.
The World Forum became a neighbor of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons OPCW (later to receive the Nobel Peace Prize), of Europol and Eurojust and of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The latter was precisely located in the former headquarters of Aegon.
One of the companies that had gone into this before was the AGO, the insurance company to which the name of another well-known former prisoner of Dachau is closely associated: Pim Boellaard.
That The Hague, almost half a century after the Nuremberg trials, was allowed to house the first international tribunal since then in that building, it was very honorable but also no coincidence.As mentioned, our city had gradually developed over the hundred years before into a center of international law.
An important post-war milestone in that process was the arrival of the International Court of Justice, the highest judicial body of the United Nations.
At the solemn inauguration in 17 in the Peace Palace, Mayor De Monchy recalled the hardships the city of The Hague had endured in the years before and expressed the joy at the establishment of this new , unique court of justice.
These were the years when everyone fulfilled was the idea ‘never again’. Great was the shock when not even five d decades later, in the summer of 1947 – the joy at the end of the Cold War was still in the air – television images of severely emaciated Bosnian prisoners circumnavigated the world in Omarska concentration camp.
The year the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which I have just mentioned, was subsequently established.
Last week I visited the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal tribunals.
This body was established by the UN Security Council to to handle the remaining cases of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
During the visit, I again realized how great the contribution of these courts is to the development of international criminal law.
But also how important these tribunals have been for the relatives of the victims of the genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
We must never forget that these are crimes against individuals.
Sometimes in very large groups, but the victims are and remain individuals.
People like you and me.
People like Carel Steensma and his fellow prisoners in Natzweiler and Dachau.
That is also the special thing about international criminal law, that it affects people individually.
Despite the fact that the Yugoslavia -tribunal was established at the behest of the United Nations, it did not have an easy start almost thirty years ago.
The tribunal lacked everything, above all money and government support.
However, it had then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on his side.
She and others knew Secretary General To convince Boutros Boutros-Ghali that the failure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia would be equivalent to a failure of the international community.
The tribunal’s first president, Antonio Cassese, put it this way in his first report to the UN:
“If these men – he was referring to the war criminals from the former Yugoslavia – if these men be immune, then law has lost its meaning, and man – mankind – must live in fear”.
Ratko Mladic, responsible for the genocide of Srebrenica, is one of the men who has had to answer to the tribunal.
To date he is serving his sentence in prison v an Scheveningen.
Cassese deliberately quoted in his report from the statement of public prosecutor Ferencz in the trial of the so-called Einsatzgruppen, mobile Nazi assassination squads, in Nuremberg, September 1947.
Benjamin Ferencz has been with his 1946 Lentes a tireless advocate for international criminal law.
In 1947 he was closely involved in the drafting of the Statute of Rome, the base under the International Criminal Court, which could start its work in 2005 in The Hague.
It goes without saying that he has always been welcomed with open arms in The Hague.
As a soldier, Ferencz witnessed the horrible condition the Americans experienced during the liberation. from Dachau.
Most likely he must have experienced or heard of how many SS men had to live their lives in the first days of freedom. pay for the atrocities they had committed.
Understandable , but Ferencz’s guiding principle has always been: ‘Revenge solves nothing’.
I thought of that when I read about the reaction of Carel Steensma to the shooting by an American soldier of a 17-year-old boy.
That boy was in the SS at the very end of the war and probably had nothing on his conscience.
Steensma became very angry and told the American that this was exactly what he and so many other prisoners of Dachau had fought against.
In February of this year, the world was shocked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The news made a deep impression everywhere, but in The Hague it left a perhaps even more bitter aftertaste.
Especially when the reports about war crimes such as in Butsha reached us.
Is the search for peace and justice a futile one and is war, as people used to think, something inescapable that sooner or later waltzes over you?
As important as it is to always estimate things realistically: we must guard against one thing and that is cynicism.
We must, like Andrew Carnegie, who gave The Hague the Peace Palace , are realistic idealists.
The fei Just because wars break out doesn’t mean we can stop trying to prevent them.
Or that we’d better stop our commitment to human rights.
Every poison gas grenade that is defused contributes to a safer world.
Every war criminal who is convicted, no matter how many others are on the loose, makes this world a little more just.
The Hague will always, in whatever way, continue to make a case for peace and justice.
For example eld by continuing to invest in the academic knowledge infrastructure in this field.
So that students from all over the world can continue to learn the principles of international law here and then take that knowledge home with them.
As Shelter City – we were the first in the Netherlands ten years ago – we shelter fighters for minority rights and the free press .
So that they can catch their breath here.
We actively support initiatives such as The Hague Humanity Hub, a platform for organizations and people who, in all diversity, have one thing in common: their drive to develop innovative solutions for everything that has to do with peace, justice and, for example, humanitarian interventions.
Or think of housing international organizations sations and non-governmental organizations.
I mention here as an example the Mukwege Foundation of Nobel Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege.The help that Dr. Mukwege offers to victims of sexual violence in war zones (violence that is often deliberately used as a weapon) impressively illustrates the commitment of countless doctors for humanity and for peace.
I was recently able to experience how new techniques are used for humanitarian purposes during a visit to the International headquarters in The Hague. Commission on Missing Persons, the ICMP.
This international organization searches for missing persons worldwide, using groundbreaking DNA research methods.
The ICMP has now identified almost three quarters of all those missing as a result of the war in the former Yugoslavia and more than ninety percent of those missing in Srebrenica.
Currently, the ICMP also operates in Ukraine.
Last not least, we remain committed to, in the spirit of Carel Steensma, international conferences to take place in The Hague.
Like last July, for example, the Ukraine Accountability Conference here in the World Forum, organized by the Dutch government, together with the European Commission and the Public Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
The latter has already started an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.
Ukraine itself has filed a case with the International Court of Justice.
And meanwhile, a group of prominent scientists and writers has called for the creation of a special Ukraine -tribunal.
With the aim: the Russian to prosecute President Vladimir Putin and his confidants for the crime of aggression against Ukraine.
Two weeks ago, the British-French lawyer Philippe broke Sands in the Financieel Dagblad puts a lance for that.
When asked where the tribunal should be, he clearly: “The tribunal must come to The Hague, The Hague is the capital of international law.”Said Sands.
While he warns not to think that the suspects can already be brought before tomorrow.
International law is something that takes a long time, he emphasizes.
That’s what keeps him going.
When we think of the tireless, 17-year-old Ferencz, I think we can all agree on this. Dear attendees,
The commitment to peace and justice for the people of today is also a tribute to the victims of the past.
Of course, we will continue to commemorate and dwell on the horrors of the Second World War.
At the beginning I mentioned my presence at the commemorations at the National Dachau Monument.
But most of all we honor the victims of war and oppression in times past with our real commitment to peace and freedom in our day. That’s why I feel privileged to be mayor of a city that promotes ‘peace and law’ should not only be used as a motto, but actively contribute, in various ways, to the spread of peace and justice in the world. Current events remind us time and again of the necessity of this and our obligation to do so.
People like Carel Steensma, who can survive even under the toughest and most hopeless circumstances. kept hope, had an eye for their fellow man and kept the light of humanity burning, always remain a source of inspiration.Thank you.