Opening address to the exhibition: The Path to Exclusion

Center for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities, 5 May 2014

"Although the Constitution of 1814 is considered one of the most liberal of its time, its original paragraph 2 excluded Jews from entrance into Norway. (...) Under the occupation the paragraph was reinstated by Quisling in 1942 before it was finally abolished when Norway was liberated in 1945", said State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen when he opened the exhibition.

Dear everyone,

  • It is an honour for me to participate at the opening of this important exhibition.

This year Norway celebrates the bicentenary of its Constitution with considerable pride and national sentiments.

  • Although the Constitution of 1814 is considered one of the most liberal of its time, its original paragraph 2 excluded Jews from entrance into Norway.
  • The paragraph remained in the Constitution until 1851.
  • Under the occupation the paragraph was reinstated by Quisling in 1942 before it was finally abolished when Norway was liberated in 1945.
  • One of the crimes of which Quisling was convicted after the war was illegal amendment of the constitution.

Today we are ashamed over the prejudices that seem to have justified this paragraph.

  • The Norwegian legislation towards Jews remained strict, in contrast to emerging attitudes on the European continent in the 19th century.
  • In retrospect, the decision to ban Jews from entering the realm has been presented almost as an act of impulse, an anachronism among the ideas that guided the drafting of the Constitution text.
  • However, as this exhibition shows, the ban was the result of long preparatory work and fronted by some of the country's leading intellectuals.

So far there has been more attention towards opposition against the paragraph and how it was abolished.

  • Therefore this exhibition is important.
  • It allows us to learn from history, also the parts of the history we today are ashamed of.

 

Good knowledge of the historical context of religious minorities is vital when working to protect their rights for the future.

  • In order to counteract genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, anti-semitism and xenophobia in the present, we need to understand what kind of discourses and attitudes that legitimized discrimination against minorities in the past.
  • It is therefore pertinent that the Center for Studies of the Holocaust and Religious Minorities is hosting this conference and launching this exhibition.

However, research on Holocaust, discrimination and hate crimes against minorities must therefore never be limited to the past, but also focus on negative attitudes in our own time.

  • In this regard, the Center has been a partner for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since its foundation, providing research on discriminating practices against religious minorities, feeding into the government’s efforts to protect religious minorities in Norway and abroad.

As a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Norway endeavors to strengthen the international efforts to promote education, remembrance and research about the Holocaust.

  • The Center has been a cooperating partner for the government in its work as part of the Alliance.
  • I am happy to announce that the government has decided to formalize the cooperation with the Center even further, and intends to enter into a multi-year cooperation agreement with the Center.

The fight against persecution and discrimination of people on the grounds of their religion requires a long-term commitment, awareness raising and involvement of religious minority groups.

  • Respect for human rights implies that all persons belonging to religious minorities are able to practice their religion freely and are protected against hate crimes, abuse and persecution.
  • Importantly, the right to freedom of religion and belief also includes the right not to have a religion.

The protection of religious minorities is high on the human rights agenda of this government.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is closely related to other human rights, such as freedom of expression, association and assembly.
  • At present, the government is working on a white paper on human rights to the parliament.
  • We wish to address these issues and invite to a broad discussion in society and in the parliament.
  • The aim is to increase our efforts to protect human rights in our foreign and development policy.

Thank you.