On August 25, 2016, the Legislature of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires approved the bill that established August 23 as the "Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarianism" (Law 5608), which remembers the date of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between the Foreign Ministers of Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The members of parliament Cecilia de la Torre and Francisco Quintana promoted the legislative initiative, following the precedent set by the European Parliament. The Buenos Aires city legislature voted on the bill and announced the following result: out of 58 votes cast, 37 were for and 15 against the bill, with 6 abstentions.
Those who argued against this initiative opposed putting National Socialism and Communism on the same level. In this regard, the story of the Czech lawyer, social democratic politician, journalist, and feminist activist Milada Horáková is just one of many examples of people who fell victim to both totalitarian regimes. Their fate thus argues in favour of adopting the "Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarianism" in the capital of the Argentine Republic.
Horáková was a pioneer of human rights activism and an emblematic figure in the defense of democracy in the then Czechoslovakia. The book "Milada Horáková: Defender of Human Rights and Victim of Totalitarianisms" by historian Ricardo López Göttig, recently published and available free of charge on the Internet, is an invitation to remember this brave woman and to embrace the noble ideals she defended, for which she first suffered imprisonment in the Nazi concentration camp in Terezin and eventually was executed by the communists, despite pleas for clemency from prominent figures such as Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. She was the only woman among the 200 executed by the Czechoslovak communist regime and her case is remembered as part of school education in the current Czech Republic. Her story was also made into a film called “Milada” by director David Mrnka, which can be watched on Netflix.
Milada represents everything that is right about defending human rights because she defended them against the various political forms of oppression. And because she embraced universal ideals, her example transcends her country, which is why her story deserves to be remembered in Latin America, where many victims of human rights violations during military dictatorships have defended - and continue to defend - political regimes such as those that ended the life of Milada Horáková and that of millions of people around the world. Human Rights activists are those who condemn and confront all types of dictatorships, regardless of their political orientation. Because all these regimes will be anti-democratic, meaning repressive of civil and political liberties.
Gabriel C. Salvia is General Director of CADAL.