Speech by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Wreath-laying Ceremony Gruenewald Railway Station, Platform #17

Berlin, July 5, 2001

"Chancellor of Germany, My brother Jews.

Here at Gruenewald railway station, on these platforms, on 39.11.42, three children of the Bobkar family – Maly, Hala and Abraham – stood here by themselves.

Perhaps the two older sisters held their seven-year-old brother by the hand.

They stood here without mother or father and the train came. The transport number was #23, the destination was Auschwitz, they were among the first. The Wansee Conference had taken place not long before, on the other side of the forest.

Thus, author and historian Dr. Fania Oz-Salzburger describes, in her book Israelis, Berlin, the last journey of the Bobkar children, to their deaths. The three children joined thousands of men, women and children who were brutally uprooted from their daily lives and sent – starting in October 1941 – from Berlin to the Lodz, Warsaw and Riga ghettos and – starting in August 1942 – directly to Auschwitz.

55,000 Jews from Berlin were sent from this station to the deaths. Out of 75,000 Berlin Jews, approximately 60,000 were murdered in the death camps. Only about 6,000 Berlin Jews survived. The dates when they were sent, the destinations and the numbers of those who were sent, all of these are stamped on the platform and sear the heart.

History is ironic – and we find in it signs. Eighteen Jews were sent from here to Thereisenstadt in the final group on 27.3.45. Eighteen Jews – in Hebrew, 18 is the numerical value of the letters that make up the word "chai" or "life". Thus, here at Gruenewald, the living and the dead intertwined.

I come here today from the Land of Israel where I was born, in which I live and for which I have fought all my life. Maly, Hala and Abraham Bobkar were from my age group when they set out from here on their last journey. The same historical process which scattered my people across the entire globe and founded the Zionist movement is what led to the fact that they, and not I, were on transport #23.

Today, 56 years after the final group was sent from platform #17 at Gruenewald, we must remember, more than ever, that the State of Israel’s right to defend itself is a major right and obligation which has been given us in order to prevent the recurrence of the events we recall as we stand here on this platform.

We must remember that the Jewish people have one small state in which we have the right and the power to defend ourselves with our own forces, and we must daily thank the Almighty for this.

It is the right of the Jewish people, after years of suffering and privation, to be the masters of our fate and to let no one control the fate of our people. We will preserve this right more than anything.

In the quiet that prevails here, which allows a short respite from the flow of troubles, I am committed, as a man, as a Jew, and as the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, to ensuring the future of the Jewish people, of each and every Jew, in the country and around the world. I do not forget, even for a moment, that every time we find ourselves obliged to realize our right to defend our security – we will do so vigorously and with courage.

Maly, Hala and Abraham Bobkar will never return from that journey, just as six million Jews – including 1.5 million children – will not. We must see to it that Jewish children will never again depart on such journeys.