On December 15, 2016, Ms. Andrea Gualde, Senior Latin American Program Adviser of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), spoke on behalf of the organization at an event held by the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) commemorating Jewish citizens who had been forcibly disappeared during the country’s military dictatorship. Current estimates for the period of 1976 until 1983 place the number of Jewish youth in Argentina who were disappeared by government forces between 1,800 and 2,000. The event, held in Buenos Aires, functioned as the latest edition of the commemoration, which has been organized by AMIA each year since 2004.
In her remarks, Ms. Gualde discussed the significance of the observance, noting that the occasion serves as an opportunity for reflection on the brutality which was directed specifically at the Jewish community during Argentina’s military dictatorship. Amidst rampant anti-Semitism, “special treatment”, in the form of particularly grotesque treatment, was often visited upon Jewish captives at the regime’s detention centers. Inspired by rhetoric reminiscent of Nazi symbology, Jewish captives were paradoxically accused of working to undermine the State by furthering the agendas of international Zionism and Communism, in addition to other forms of subversion, which worked to enable ferocious treatment by their captors.
Her speech also covered the importance and value of commemoration itself, which works to generate and reinforce elements of collective memory and encouraging critical studies of the past. Memory, she says, “represents the link between generations that gives meaning to the phrase ‘never again’.” She identified the AMIA event as one that serves as an important opportunity to reflect on this notion and mankind’s complacency in the face of recent and ongoing atrocities around the globe, despite continued declarations of “never again”.
Ms. Gualde concluded her remarks by touching upon the important relationship between justice and memory, especially within the Argentine context. She stressed the need for the pursuit of both processes, asserting that the necessity of prosecuting and convicting perpetrators “is not contradictory” to the necessity of carrying out investigations that reveal the processes which led society to the point of encountering mass atrocities. She explained:
Understanding these processes is synonymous with taking responsibility for our history. It is to revisit once and again a painful and disputed past.
It is to walk a critical path, one which questions and challenges us. It is, in short, to ask uncomfortable questions, to obtain necessary answers that we owe ourselves, as a society, out of respect for the victims and for the generations that will succeed us.