Everything resurfaces again and again, ceaselessly: the sights, sounds, horrors. There is no escaping them. They will not be obliterated from our memories, and they will forever be remembered. This is our vow.
Exactly 200 years separated the entry of a 14 year old Jewish boy into the Rosenthal Gate at the Berlin wall (the gate intended for Jews and animals) and the transport to the death of the Jews of Berlin by the Nazi oppressor. The entry of Moshe Mendelssohn in the fall of 1743 marked the dawn of a Jewish-German cultural alliance and a magnificent and tremendous creative contribution by Jews to the spiritual life, the philosophy, literature, poetry, music, arts, science and medicine in Germany – a contribution which was unproportionate to the number of Jews in the population. Exactly two hundred years, sealed for eternity, here, at dock number 17, at the Grünwald Train Station.
If only they had been deported. If only they had been given the option of leaving this country, which they so loved, for some reason, despite the boiling lava of hatred of Jews, which constantly rustled under their feet. If only they could escape and save themselves. But the roads were all blocked, sealed at every turn; above all – so was the road to the Land of Israel, the object of their dreams, the land of their hopes and prayers. The Jews did not have a State then, and the shores of the land – like the shores of all countries of the world – were sealed and bolted to them. There was only one road for those who had been forcibly herded at this station: the road heading east, from which there was no return.
A hundred years prior to these events poet Heinrich Heine wrote about the disaster his people faced, which sound as if they were written about his bothers and sisters who were to die:
"Outbursts of bitter lament,
The song of those who sanctify G-d,
Burning I carried you
For years in my silent heart.
The old man and the child cry,
Those with hardened hearts cry,
Women and flowers in the woods,
In the sky, a star weeps—"
The Holocaust left a question in the depths of the soul of the human race which the heart and mind are incapable of handling, a question which cries to the heavens and plunges to the depths. It does not have one great answer, only countless partial answers. One of them is that the Jewish people did not have one single harbor, to be used as a safe haven. They did not have one single lighthouse to illuminate the darkness of the storm. They did not have a sheltered home, with an open door to welcome them with love. They did not have these until the establishment of the State of Israel.
We have learned and memorized the lesson: the weak and defenseless are doomed. Doomed are they who do not believe those who threaten to eradicate them. Doomed are they who remain complacent and do not prepare themselves to thwart the danger. Doomed are they who entertain the false illusion that they could escape harm and that they could rely on the mercy of strangers.
This is the legacy of our six million dead: to do everything in our power to make certain that the Jewish State will be the complete and furthermost opposite of the Nazi evil; to base our nation on the eternal values of the Torah and the prophets of Israel, the freedom and dignity of man, social justice, human morality, the sanctity of life and the dedicated pursuit of peace.
Poet Avraham Shlonsky wrote in one of his poems:
Even here, even today, it follows me
The enemy image of a dreadful exile
Always, the train always seems to me
As murder in the middle of the day.
And the razor of the night slashes and slashes
The travel coaches – the coffins
I do not know, I do not know
Why I remembered my home today".
Indeed. The echo, the lesson is always with us. The memory train follows every Jew, any place, any time. I, who was born in my homeland after the Holocaust, know full well why, here and now, I remember my home, Israel. I know full well why my home is so precious and so dear to me.