Address by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Opening Ceremony of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day
Monday, May 1, 2000

(as published by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority)

Fifty-five years ago, at about this time, the cannons of Europe were silenced, and a new spring flowered on the continent. It had taken six years for the forces of good to overpower the forces of evil and to rescue humanity from cultural extinction, from the ruins of the foundation of human morality, freedom, justice and faith bequeathed to the world by the Jewish people.

The National Socialist ideology attempted to eradicate all of the ideals of modern humanity: liberal enlightenment, humane socialism and free democracy. The racist and murderous Nazi ideology stood in complete contradiction to the traditional heritage and spiritual culture of the Jewish people as well as our eternal symbol: the Bible.

The sacred commandment, "Thou shalt not murder," and the greatest rule of the Torah, "Love thy neighbor as thyself," as well as all of the values of grace, charity, equality and peace within the Jewish heritage — these are the absolute antithesis of all that Nazism represents and everything that it wanted to do to humanity. Every family, in every Jewish house, in every Jewish school and in every synagogue, every Jewish spirit who drew from the holy fountain of history and lived by these values, was an enemy of Nazism. Nazism saw in the abolition of Jewish civilization a precondition to its success.

It was no accident that the Jewish people were furiously devoured by the Nazi monster. Hitler’s regime invested coercive effort and shifted great resources, manpower and detailed organizational systems from the military front to the mission of methodically destroying young and old, defenseless women and men who were completely lacking in military strength and were not a threat. The Nazis gave top priority to the extermination of the Jews, even at the expense of their military effort, even when their defeat was imminent. The Nazis were compelled, by their racist nature, and by their aggressive, twisted logic, to see the Jewish people as their mortal enemies, their sworn enemies, their eternal enemies.

As a representative of the Jewish people, as an heir of the murdered victims and as the Prime Minister of the sovereign, independent state of Israel, I am proud that the spirit of my people was the primary enemy of the Nazis. My defenseless people became a target. My people were placed in the line of fire, exposed to hatred and antisemitism. My people were mortally wounded but survived. Their life and their survival is their victory. Theirs is a triumph of light over darkness, a triumph of righteousness over evil. A triumph of the godlike image within man over the bestial nature of man.

The revival of the State of Israel is the ultimate answer to the plot of the deadly foe to erase the name of Israel from the face of the Earth. It is an act of supreme historic justice; there is nothing above it. Because of this, I swear that there will never again be a Jew without a home, and that the Jews will never again be defenseless. The power and strength of Israel is meant for this purpose, for defense only, and as a base and a guarantee for achieving peace and security.

On behalf of the people of Israel and the state of Israel, on this Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, I salute all of my brothers and sisters, victims of the Nazi evil, who guarded the honor of Israel and the honor of humankind. I salute the purity of the souls of 1.5 million children, the sanctity of the love of mothers and fathers and the heroic suffering of those who were murdered with Shema Yisrael on their lips.

I salute all those who carried the flag of rebellion in ghettos and camps and who fought in the brave partisan groups and in the armies of the Allies, all of the active participants in the eradication of the Nazi darkness. I salute the survivors of the terror, who rehabilitated their lives in the State of Israel, and I salute the veterans who immigrated here and the soldiers of the Brigade, the fighting Jewish Regiment from Israel.

On this day, we shall seclude ourselves and remember, and we shall draw courage and strength out of the undefeated, brave spirit of our brothers and sisters, victims of the Holocaust. In the words of the poet, Shaul Tchernikovsky:

"— As everything I have remembered
My wounds have awoken
as if they were thousands of suns alive
an abundance of light
inside me has opened
it was to me
the wick and the menorah —"

 Address by PM Barak at Opening Ceremony of Holocaust Martyrs- and Heroes- Remembrance Day
 Address by PM Barak at Opening Ceremony of Holocaust Martyrs- and Heroes- Remembrance Day
Yad Vashem – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority – Special Remembrance Day section