Seventy years after the liberation of the death camps, we stand before you and we swear an oath, and promise, "All of us, each and every one of us, have a number tattooed on their arm." Yet, at the same time and in the same breath we remember: we came from Auschwitz, not because of Auschwitz.
President Reuven Rivlin, at Yad Vashem, addressed the official ceremony marking the commencement of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day:
We stand here tonight, in painful silence at Yad Vashem, in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day. Exactly seventy years since April 15th, 1945, a Sunday afternoon. The day when the first British soldiers crossed the gates of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The joy of liberation was replaced by horror. The horror that was revealed before their eyes was inconceivable.
Not just today, but every day, we walk the depths of the valley, extruded between two mountains. This mountain of memorial and remembrance, on one side and the mountain of revival and vision on the other. The mountain of memory, commands us, the Jewish people, to remember. Remember the sounds. Remember the sights. Remember the names. And yet the mountain of vision and rebirth, of construction and creation, calls on us to look ahead, and step into the future. Continuing to build a magnificent country, continuing to strive to construct another world, a safe world, full of promise – for us and for future generations.
My brothers and sisters, Holocaust survivors, heroes of revival. During this uneasy journey, you have been our ‘Pillar of Fire’ before the camp. You – who found the strength to shake off the ashes of the crematoria, and the soil drenched with tears and blood – have instructed us to select the path of life, and realize a vision. You, who have loved and laughed, who have planted an orchard, have built a national home, as well as private homes. You have guided the entire nation. Today, seventy years after the liberation of the death camps, we stand before you and we swear an oath, and promise, "All of us, each and every one of us, have a number tattooed on their arm."
Yet, at the same time and in the same breath we remember: we came from Auschwitz, not because of Auschwitz. We cannot let the pogroms, the bellowing smoke of the crematoria blind us or blur our abilities to recognize our past, our identity, our heritage – which are stronger than those who with destroy us.
The Holocaust is our lowest point, the most dreadful, in Jewish history. The moment of horror for all humanity, but the Jewish journey does not begin with it, just as it does not end with it. The Jewish journey begins in the Land of Israel, and it is here that it always strives to return.
There are those who mistakenly think that the State of Israel is some form of compensation for the Holocaust. There is no greater mistake. The State of Israel is not a compensation for the Holocaust. The State of Israel was established, in its own right, out of a love and longing for an ancient homeland, by virtue of a dream that came true, a dream that became a reality. Not out of the fear of extinction or out of hatred of the other.
Four months ago, I stood in Poland, whose earth is soaked in blood, and I said that the State of Israel will forever deplore Auschwitz, and everything it symbolizes: anti-Semitism in all its forms and manifestations; the desecration of human dignity, whoever and wherever it is found; the desecration of that which was created in the image of God.
The State of Israel, will continue its struggle against these and will not surrender. We build our future here, with open and alert eyes. We will not belittle any threats. Nor belittle, shameful statements calling for the extinction of the Jewish people. Yet, while we are prepared, we are not scared. The horrors of the past and the threats of the present, will not dictate our lives, nor shape the lives of our children. They will not dim our hopes for a future of creation and prosperity.
My brothers and sisters, Holocaust survivors. We will continue to walk in the spirit in which you led us for 70 years. We will continue to impart the memory of the Holocaust, from generation to generation, as it is tattooed into our flesh, but will not determine our future. We will build our future as a free nation. A nation which draws its power and vitality, from three thousand years – forged in the vision of the Prophets of Israel, out of the treasured soul of the generations of rabbis, sages, poets, and philosophers of our nation. As a nation, which sees itself as an integral part of the family of nations, as a Jewish and democratic state – democratic and Jewish.