May 2, 2000
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday evening (Tuesday) 2.5.2000 spoke at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot, concluding Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. Following is the text of the speech:
The enlightened world celebrates VE Day once each year, on 8-9 May. Here, at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot, where the key official ceremony marking Holocaust Day is held, this victory is celebrated daily. From this perspective, this kibbutz is the best proof of the great Jewish victory over the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people out of memory and existence.
The founders of Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot were all Holocaust survivors, the remnants of those who rebelled in the Warsaw Ghetto, partisans who fought the Nazis in the forests of Poland and Russia, prisoners in the concentration camps and the fighters of the Vilna Ghetto. The cornerstone ceremony of the kibbutz was held in April 1949 – deliberately – on the 6th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
An integral part of the new kibbutz was to establish – on the day it was founded – a museum to document the Holocaust of European Jewry and the battles of the soldiers. On that same day, the first Holocaust Remembrance Day was held, a ceremony that has become a key fixture on the Israeli calendar.
The living sprit of the founders who established Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot was Zvia Lubatkin, who participated in the two Warsaw Ghetto uprisings. In Israel, Zvia married Yitzhak – Antek – Zuckerman, a legendary figure in his own right, who initiated the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the Jewish Fighters Organization that planned the revolt, and who lead the organization after the death of Mordechai Aneilewicz.
From its outset, Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot has striven to fulfill two missions that together are its raison d’etre. On one hand to be a farm where people live and love, marry and have children, build homes and plant trees – a place that is built daily with its face tot he future. And on the other hand, a farm whose many educational activities seek to "to deepen awareness of the Holocaust and the revolts by the Jewish people in Israel and the world, and to be a monument to the Diaspora that was destroyed."
Antek was one of the founders and designers of the Yitzhak Katznelson Beit Lohamei Hageta’ot. Zvia worked in the hen-house, the kitchens, administration, serving several times as Kibbutz secretary. They are both no longer with us, but they had children and their children had children of their own, all of whom reside here, at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot. They lead the completely ordinary lives of daily routine and blessings of people on their own land. This normalcy of their and their colleagues’ lives and is the very essence of the victory of the prisoners of the camps, the Holocaust survivors, the ghetto fighters, the victory over the Nazi extermination machine that could not defeat them.
The people of Israel live.
Yes, the people of Israeli live.
They won a great victory, but we must rest on the laurels of that victory. It is a conditional victory – the condition is the continued existence of the vow of Abraham Shlonsky:
"For my eyes that have seen the bereavement
And burdened with the cries of my bowed heart
I vow to remember all
To remember and not forget anything."
The war of the ghetto fighters was never intended to defeat Nazi Germany. It may have been hopeless, but it was never pointless. It was intended to prove – and indeed did prove to the Germans, and even more so to the Jews themselves – that when the Jew has a weapon in his hands, he knows how to fight for his life.
This is the lesson the ghetto fighters have taught us: Never again to be caught defenseless, never again be weak, to be trampled upon, dependant on the goodwill and mercy of others.
In recent years, instances of Holocaust denial have multiplied. But, so too have the instances of revulsion against them. The unique international conference held early this year in Stockholm, which I was honored to attend, turned into a global demonstration condemning the repellant phenomenon called Holocaust denial. The conference reiterated the fundamental lesson of Hitler’s Germany: The lesson is that enlightened society, society that respects human dignity in and of itself including the stranger and those who are different, is not something to be taken for granted, but something to protect and determinedly fight for.
The embarrassing case of Austria, where Jorg Haider’s neo-nazi party has been made a regular member of the government coalition – despite the protests of the international community – proves how much this lesson is still valid.
Too many were silent when the Nazis raised their heads for the first time. The State of Israel will not let it happen again without an appropriate response.
Precisely today, precisely here at Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot I call to the leaders of the enlightened world to uproot the tree of racism wherever we see its sprouts; to cut down every deviant blade of anti-Semitism before it grows to monstrous proportions; to fight – together and with determination – against every appearance of xenophobia and to exterminate this dangerous virus.
We will not let anything or anybody endanger the full and complete moral victory of the ghetto fighters and Holocaust survivors, the survivors of the extermination camps, who have decreed to us by their exemplary lives the double mission: To guarantee the construction, prosperity, security and peace of the State of Israel, the state of the Jewish people – and to concurrently guarantee to deepen the awareness of the Holocaust and disseminate its lessons.
Here in Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta’ot, we commit ourselves to fulfill this mission – in both its parts – in full and for eternity.