Standing beside me are my wife, Sara, and my colleague Yossi Peled. My wife’s family, her father’s family, was wiped out. He was practically the only survivor in a family of one hundred people, and our children live because he made the decision in 1933 to pursue his goal of going to the Holy Land and rebuilding Zionism.
Yossi Peled’s family was not much luckier, and he grew up as a Christian child until the age of eight, and then came after the War to the State of Israel, became one of our great generals and is now a minister in the Israeli government. His mother was in Bunk 10, the Mengele bunk, which is here in these plans. I don’t know how many of my wife’s family died in these bunks.
So these are the facts. Now what is the lesson? There are two lessons. The first lesson is that we cannot allow them to prepare the mass death of innocents and that the most important thing to do is to nip it at the bud. It was possible to stop it in time. It did not happen because the main civilized powers of the day did not act in time to stop the arming of barbarism, and armed barbarism knows no limits. It has to be disarmed in time for human lives to be saved and for civilization’s future to be secured.
This lesson joins another one and that is that it is important for the Jews to have the power to defend themselves; but it is also important for the leaders of other nations to recognize that their own fate is imperiled by those who threaten our fate, and therefore that they have to act in time.
These plans, these aerial photographs, were available in World War Two. They may have been deciphered after the War for their full import, but when I was the Ambassador of Israel to the UN, I went into the UN archives that had been sealed for many decades, and I found files of war criminals with details from 1944, detailed descriptions that reached Allied headquarters about what was happening in these compounds. It is not that they didn’t know; they knew. They knew but didn’t act.
We cannot allow this to be repeated. We, means the whole civilized world. We cannot allow those who wish to perpetrate mass death, those who call for the destruction of the Jewish people or the Jewish state, to go unchallenged. This is the most important lesson that we draw from the Holocaust and from this visit today.
Once again I want to thank the Springer organization. My father stood here in this window with Axel Springer many years ago, in 1976, shortly after the death of my brother at Entebbe. Mr. Springer took him to this window where we just stood, and he said, “This is where freedom ends and tyranny begins”. Mr. Springer was very kind to my father, who told him there’s a connection between terror and tyranny, just as there is a connection between freedom and peace. This basic equation is with us today, but the main thing that has to happen for tyranny to be defeated is to make sure that the forces of freedom act to defend themselves in time. This did not take place in the tragic period before the Holocaust.
May we all draw the lessons for today and tomorrow.
Thank you very much.