Seventy-five years ago men, women, and children were rounded up and murdered because of what they believed, where they came from, how they looked, and whom they loved. The same crimes are taking place in the Middle East.
Thank you, Mr. President,
Before I begin, I want to thank Ambassador Dapkiunas and the government of Belarus for the special tree planting ceremony that took place earlier.
Seventy-five years ago, at the dawn of the Second World War, Europe was locked in the grip of tyranny. Hitler’s Reich had already conquered huge swaths of Europe and the shadow of oppression grew day by day as the Nazis subjugated, devastated, and exterminated anyone they deemed different and inferior.
With the forces of fascism advancing, the Allied forces knew they had no choice but to liberate Europe from the grip of tyranny. History and circumstance called for bravery and a generation of men and women answered the call. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, they fought on the beaches, they fought on the landing grounds, they fought in the fields and in the streets, they fought in the hills; they never surrendered.
We owe our freedom to the courage and determination of the Allied armies – the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Canada, France, and other countries – that fought to restore freedom to Europe. The nations that joined together to defeat the Nazis did not always agree, but despite their political differences they knew that evil had to be stopped.
The losses were immense – the Russians alone lost over 20 million people. It was a terrible price to pay. They stood up to the forces of nature and stood up to the Nazi’s evil human nature. The people of Israel will never ever forget the bravery and sacrifices made by the Russian people. Today we honor all those who made victory possible. Some of those people – the veterans – are here with us today. We also mourn the tens of millions of victims of history’s darkest hour.
For Israel and the Jewish people, World War II is synonymous with the Holocaust. Families were torn apart, vibrant communities destroyed, and one third of the Jewish people – including one million children – were murdered. We are still haunted by the devastation. The numbers tattooed on the arms of our parents and grandparents are an enduring reminder of the horrors that they suffered – of a time when a person was a number rather than someone’s father or brother or son.
The hands of time now threaten to cloud the world’s memory. With every passing year, the number of survivors, veterans, and witnesses left to recount their first-hand experiences diminishes. And so the responsibility falls to us to ensure that the lessons of history are passed to future generations.
Freedom is once again under attack. The radical Islamists marching across the Middle East and North Africa are every bit as determined and dangerous as the Nazi forces that marched across Europe.
Seventy-five years ago men, women, and children were rounded up and murdered because of what they believed, where they came from, how they looked, and whom they loved. The same crimes are taking place in the Middle East. Activists and political opponents are being silenced, homosexuals are being hanged, and Christians are being beheaded.
Make no mistake, evil is alive and well – and not just in the Middle East. In the heart of civilized Europe, angry mobs can be heard chanting "Gas the Jews," firebombs have been thrown at synagogues, young men are afraid to walk down the street wearing a kippah, and a kosher grocery store is targeted for attack.
The writing is on the wall. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin once said, "If an enemy… says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment."
History has taught us that Jewish lives can never be entrusted to another people or another nation. We must always be able to defend ourselves by ourselves. The State of Israel is the fulfillment of that promise. Never again will Jews be rounded up like cattle and marched to their death. Never again will the world think that Jews can be targeted with impunity.
We know the evil that man is capable of and we know that some things are worth fighting for.
Freedom is worth fighting for. Equality is worth fighting for. Democracy is worth fighting for.
Seventy years ago, a generation of men and women sacrificed in war so that we would inherit freedom, equality, and democracy. We cannot allow those sacrifices to be in vain. With courage and conviction we must now fight for the ideals for which they lived and died.
General Douglas Macarthur once said: "We have known the bitterness of defeat and the exultation of triumph, and from both we have learned there can be no turning back. We must go forward to preserve in peace what we won in war."
The time has come for us to be united in purpose, united in valor, and united as nations – so that we too may pass the gifts of freedom, equality, and democracy to our children and grandchildren.
Thank you, Mr. President.