REMARKS BY ISRAELI PRESIDENT CHAIM HERZOG IN YAD VASHEM AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF HOLOCAUST MARTYRS’ AND HEROES’ REMEMBRANCE DAY

JERUSALEM, APRIL 17, 1993

Half a century has passed, and the people that lost a third of its members is still stricken with the memory, still suffers anguish.

A leaden cloud covered the heavens. The skies of Europe were darkened as were the skies of mankind, and that soil on which the Jewish communities had flourished was filled with streams and rivers red with their blood, and the soil itself, from the very depths of hell, demanded more and more. There, on the occupied soil of Europe, a terrible fire consumed everything given to it bountifully by the Nazi extermination machine.

The Jewish people hovered between life and death, and the ears of the world were closed. There was no savior, no one to take pity. Yitzhak Katzenelson, the last Hebrew poet on European soil, cried out:

‘My people is no more;
Why have my people died,
For what did they die in vain
Not in war, not in battle…’

About 50 years have passed since the end of the horror, and we are still pursued by shadows, stricken with the memories, seeking refuge from that inferno – and finding none. Human language is inadequate to express even the tiniest fraction. Mortal intelligence is inadequate to grasp the abysses of the Holocaust and its consequences.

Three years after the flames subsided, at this very time 45 years ago, the Jewish state was born. It arose in fulfillment of the verse, ‘I shall pass over you and see you wallowing in your blood, and I shall say: In your blood shall you live.’

In a few days, Israel will celebrate its 45th Independence Day. This juxtaposition of dates is not accidental. It derives from the tragic juxtaposition of the great events in the history of our people. Its historic significance, the moral justness of Israel’s establishment, was finely hoped by the Holocaust and became a symbol to the world, testimony to the triumph of good over evil and of truth over falsehood. The sons of light conquered darkness.

The State of Israel was charged with a mission not only to redeem and to deliver the Jewish people, not only to fulfill the age-old prayer of a ravaged nation, but also to be the torthbearer of human justice, equality, freedom and peace – all that is the antithesis of Nazism and racism.

Today, when the skies of Europe are again being rent with the voice of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, we shall continue to bear the burden of our moral mission – a mission of faith in man and hope in the victory of the lofty human values, without which human civilization cannot endure. We, the victims of the dark ideology whose eyes were blinded by false hatred, are called upon to take a stand against it – for this is our duty to the millions slaughtered, this is our duty to mankind, to human civilization, to our moral tradition.

Today, when we look at the world around us, when we see peoples and nations bleeding with racial and nationalist hatred – we know from our experience that there is no depth or abyss to which the human soul cannot descend. We shall remember that we were victims to such a hatred. We shall know that it is not enough to be strong – and we are strong – nor to be right, while safeguarding our values.

Remembrance is not an offering to our brothers who perished. Remembrance is a obligatory commandment. It is a moral burden which we must bear with love. When the siren will sound – a sound that freezes our blood – we shall say to our departed brothers: May the redemption of our people in its land – a free land – be a symbol of great salvation, for good has conquered and destroyed the kingdom of evil.

Rest in peace, for a son of Jacob, savior of Israel, has arisen.