Jerusalem, April 8, 2002
(Communicated by the President’s Spokeswoman)
Following is President Moshe Katsav’s speech at the opening ceremony for Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day, on Monday, April 8, 2002, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem:
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
Dear Holocaust survivors.
Today, the 27th of the month of Nisan, the people of Israel bow their heads in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The memory of the Holocaust accompanies us throughout our lives and is part of our identity and consciousness both as individuals and as a people. The Holocaust is a bleeding wound on the body of the Jewish people, which has never recovered from this tragedy – neither emotionally nor demographically. The Jewish people lost – in the ovens of the Holocaust – part of Jewish life and left part of its soul in the death camps.
The Holocaust is a trauma and an inseparable part of our being for eternity.
However, the spirit, the vision and the moral values of the Jewish people remain strong, as do our determination and faith in our path and in the Eternal One of Israel, the Rock of Israel.
It is impossible to understand the people of Israel without regard for the Holocaust and its Jewish and universal lessons.
Sixty years after the act of destruction, threatening and shrill voices of anti-Semites, racists and xenophobes are still being heard in Europe and other places.
Many internet sites disseminate Holocaust denial; anti-Semitism is also growing and spreading among men and women of letters. There is a wave of attacks on Jews and Jewish targets around the world; we are also witnesses to libels and slander.
We will show no restraint and we will not suffice with mere expressions of dissatisfaction. We will not stand about with feelings of inferiority in the face of outbreaks of anti-Semitism. We are not a people without sovereignty; we are not helpless.
The acts of annihilation leave us gaping and unable to comprehend the disaster which has befallen us or the depths of brutality to which human beings can sink. We stand dumbfounded in the face of the powerful campaign to annihilate the Jewish people that took place in one of the most advanced countries in the world at the time, a country in central Europe, which brought forth not only scientists, but illustrious men and women of letters, and famous writers and poets.
The greatest and most primitive act of brutality in the history of mankind began to be carried out in a country which was then considered to be one of the most modern.
We are deeply stirred that during such a dark and disastrous period in the life of the Jewish people, the Jews succeeded in preserving their humanity and even risked their lives in attempts to save other Jews. Many Jews have felt the need to put them in writing on behalf of future generations.
In the need to document, Gina Atlas wrote to her husband Reuben: "Know that your wife and son perished here. Our son cried bitterly. He did not want to die. Go to war and avenge the blood of your wife and your only child. We die but have done nothing." Those who survived the Holocaust are still here among us, in Israel and around the world; from them and with them, we will draw strength and we will study their determination and resilience.
The memory of the Holocaust will certainly remain in the consciousness of the Jewish people for generations to come; however, we must also see to it that the lessons of the Holocaust guide our people in the coming generations. There is no certainty that coming generations of humanity will internalize the memory and lessons of the Holocaust. We, the Jewish people, must also bear the responsibility for this mission.
The Jewish people have an historic obligation to shine an eternal flame on those who demand from us the victims of Holocaust from their graves, from the valleys of killing, from the gas chambers and from the freight cars, on those who demand from us our 4,000 year old Jewish history.
I appreciate the efforts of those European countries, which took part or aided in the terrible Holocaust, to deal with their pasts and teach the young generation about the Jewish life that was cut down by their forefathers. We expect that additional European countries will also see fit to deal with their pasts, to honestly acknowledge that they collaborated with the Nazi tyranny, and to inculcate humane and universal values in the young generation. These are the lessons of the Holocaust and they must be impressed upon the coming generations so that future generations of humanity do not stand helpless and inert.
Next week we will mark Memorial Day for the fallen of the IDF and we will celebrate Independence Day. Not far from here lays the military cemetery, the distances of time and place teach us the connection. The State of Israel is the eternal proof that the Eternal One of Israel does not lie.
We stand determined, steadfast and united to preserve and assure the existence of the Jewish people here in its homeland. We reaffirm that we will hand over to coming generations a strong and independent Jewish state, a safe haven for the Jewish people.