"The fact that the UN united around a resolution submitted by Israel on this subject is evidence that the enlightened world understands today how vital it is for the future of all humanity to remember Auschwitz and the lessons of the Holocaust."
(Translated from Hebrew)
Address by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the Knesset
International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust
Members of Knesset,
Today, at this special Knesset session, we are marking the International Remembrance Day for the Victims of the Holocaust.
To me, this Knesset session is special for another reason: unfortunate circumstances have brought me to stand here today to deliver the government’s statement, in place of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. I hope and pray that the prime minister will soon recover and regain his place on this podium, and at the government table. I am certain that the entire Knesset joins me in this prayer.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, the ultimate symbol of the Holocaust and the Nazi effort to bring about the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. The Holocaust is the most radical, most monstrous expression of hatred of the Jews: a hatred which has accompanied the people of Israel since the beginning of time.
In 1920, the arch-murderer Adolf Hitler found the “cure” for the disease called "Judaism": "Do not think that you can fight the disease without killing its cause, without exterminating the germ. The influence of Judaism will never disappear as long as our bodies are not purged of the cause of this plague – the Jew."
When these words were first uttered, they reflected the opinion of a marginalized minority. They were dismissed as the statements of an eccentric loudmouth. But the Nazi, anti-Semitic, and racist affliction, which was not nipped in the bud, quickly spread and took hold of an entire continent, claiming the lives of six million victims: six million innocent children, women, men and the elderly, whose sacred memory we commemorate today.
“If This is a Man?” is asked in one of the books of Primo Levi, the Italian Jewish chemist who survived Auschwitz and dedicated his life to commemorating the horrors which took place there. The question carries a double meaning: can the victim, who was deprived not only of his family, but also of his name, identity, clothes, and hair, and became a mere number – can he still be considered a man?
A no less difficult and important question is whether the tormentor, the Nazi beast, the executor, the SS officer, can still be considered man. And the chilling answer is yes, he is man. It appears that man is capable of anything – even the actions of an animal and a monster.
Therefore, those who do not want to witness a recurrence of “Auschwitz” cannot trust either human nature, or the nature of a civilized society. Germany was a very civilized country. The only thing that can guarantee that "Auschwitz” never happens again is an unwavering battle against anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia.
The Iranian president’s call to wipe Israel off the map, along with his collection of other anti-Semitic drivel which has shocked the world, is evidence that evil still exists and that hatred is still burning.
However, the fact that the UN united around a resolution submitted by Israel on this subject is evidence that the enlightened world understands today how vital it is for the future of all humanity to remember Auschwitz and the lessons of the Holocaust. It also proves how right Herzl was when he declared: “Anti-Semitism was a catastrophe for Judaism, but it was no less a catastrophe for the entire civilized humanity.”
I hope that humanity will never forget this.
The Government of Israel convened today for a special meeting at the Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem in order to emphasize our commitment to commemorating the victims of the Holocaust and fighting anti-Semitism.
There is important symbolism in this meeting of the Government of Israel, the symbol of the renewed Jewish sovereignty, in a place which symbolizes the devastating destruction which befell the Jewish people in the absence of such sovereignty.
Together with other governments and international Jewish organizations worldwide, we will continue to act tirelessly to eradicate manifestations of anti-Semitism, and act against racism and xenophobia wherever they are.
The fate of our six million brothers and sisters, the victims of the Holocaust, will be eternally engraved in our hearts.
This is our duty as the Government of Israel, it is our duty as members of the Jewish faith, and it is our duty as human beings.