Israel will never forget the two imperatives imposed by the Shoah: The command to establish an independent Jewish state, which can defend itself and which yearns for peace. And the imperative to take threats of extermination, Holocaust denial and terror-mongers seriously.

 President Peres addresses opening ceremony of Holocaust Remembrance Day

 

(Photo: GPO)

Address of the President of the State of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres, at the Opening Ceremony of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem 2010

[translated from Hebrew]

Prime Minister, Speaker of the Knesset, President of the Supreme Court, Chief Rabbis, Government Ministers, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Members of the Knesset, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Holocaust survivors, Righteous Among the Nations, ladies and gentlemen:

My brothers and sisters in Israel and the Diaspora, the days are growing longer. It’s the end of the month of Nissan, and evening is falling in Israel. On the houses in Mahane Yehuda, in Kiryat Yovel, Kiryat Moshe, Talpiot, Ramot and Gilo. Evening is descending on the skyscrapers of Tel Aviv, the roofs of Haifa and the plains of Be’er Sheva. On Moshav Moledet, Kibbutz Grofit and Kiryat Shmona. The sunset’s rays are dimming over Tel Hai, Deganya and Masada.

A short while ago, dusk also fell in Antopol, Zuromin, Rudnik and Michalow – towns in which three quarters of the inhabitants used to be Jews – but no longer. Not one Jew remains. Evening descended on the village of Tostanovice, where 2,803 Jews were murdered. On Libau, in Latvia, whrere 7,101 Jews were murdered. On Chelm, near Lublin, whence 15,000 Jews were sent to their deaths.

Darkness has started to envelope Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau.

Dusk has also fallen on Vishneva, where I was born, and where I visited, as an Israeli government minister. Of all the Jewish homes and synagogues not a single beam remains.

I went to look at the well that stood in the courtyard of our house. The water had not been touched by the fire. I raised the bucket, in order to taste the water of my childhood. The water had a charred flavor, the taste of the fire that consumed the people of the town. The members of my family, who had remained there.

Like a house of mourning, this evening is a canopy stretched over the thousands of communities, whose existence has been reduced to a tombstone, whose culture has become but a memory, and whose members have been turned to ashes.

The sunset encompasses the synagogues and houses of study that were destroyed; the theatres and cultural institutions that were demolished; the books that were torched, and the schools that were reduced to ashes.

Everything was obliterated – the life, the houses, the culture. A scorched world.

This fire will continue to burn within us, as an impossible farewell to six million of our brethren: men, women and old people. To one and a half million of our children. The immense potential of life and talent, which was eradicated – an irrevocable loss.

Someone passing through the town of Zborow in Ukraine, would not know that in this place on one fine day at the beginning of 1941, a thousand Jews were shot to death, and buried in two pits. Today’s passerby would not hear the heartrending cry of April 9th, 1943, the day on which 2,300 Jews were forced to dig pits for themselves next to the Sokolinaya sports hall. They were murdered and thrown into the pits they had dug with their own hands.

"What shall I liken to thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? What shall I equal to thee, that I may comfort thee, O virgin daughter of Zion?" it says in Lamentations, and this was also asked by the few who survived the selection on the platform at Birkenau, and the survivors who reached Eretz Israel and immediately volunteered to protect the Jewish people in its battle for independence.

God is our witness, that in the state that was established by pioneers, and by refugees and survivors, the cry of the Shoah merges with the noise of the construction cranes.

Israel will never forget the two imperatives imposed by the Shoah: The firm command to establish an independent Jewish state, which can defend itself, and which yearns for peace. And the imperative to take threats of extermination, Holocaust denial and terror-mongers seriously.

We have a right and a duty to demand of the nations of the world that they not repeat the indifference that cost millions of lives, including their own citizens.

The ears of the UN have to be attuned to the threats of extermination uttered by one member country against another member country, for otherwise, the basis of the UN charter will be eroded. In order to achieve clear skies over the Middle East, one first has to dismantle the threats of annihilation. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of those capable of mass destruction, with voices encouraging that destruction – that is the most perilous combination to world peace. They turn the world into a place which is out of control.

A part of the Iranian people itself is ashamed and embarrassed by the tyranny that has overtaken it. The Arab states are aware that the anti-Israel incitement of Ahmedinejad is designed to camouflage his real goal, which is Iranian hegemony over the whole area.

World War II broke out to the accompaniment of the satanic incitement of the Nazis, and the claim that the Germans are the superior race and "Deutschland uber Alles". There must be no return to the monstrous attitude that there is a superior person, a superior regime or a superior race that may do exactly as it pleases.

Germany did not realize this in time, but the current German leadership has internalized the conclusions.

I recited  Kaddish in the German parliament. And I believe that even those who do not speak Hebrew heard the historic truth that branded disgrace on German history and bereavement on millions of innocent people.

Our dead will not come back to life; their memory lives within us. Our wounds will not heal; our strength will not ebb.

We are here now, together, Holocaust survivors and Righteous Among the Nations.

Tonight, Holocaust survivors will kindle torches to the glory and eternity of Israel. Jewish history salutes you.

Faith is what enabled us to rebuild our state, which today has the largest number of Jews known to history. A state with great scientific aptitude; whose economy is thriving;  whose security is steadfast;  whose culture inspires emotion;  whose democratic rule brings freedom to all its citizens, regardless of creed, nation or class.

Our people rebelled against slavery, negated mastery, smashed idols, rejected discrimination, and we will continue in the same vein. Our eyes remain wide open to danger, at all times, and our hands remain unfailingly extended in peace.

There has never been another people which has been persecuted like us. And there is no other people that has rehabilitated itself like us. We remain a people with memory, faith and determination. And in the morning, we will once again go out to work, to build and create.

The Shoah resonates in our hearts, while our actions generate rebirth.