Address by Interim PM - Opening Ceremony of the Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day
Photo by GPO 

Honorable President and Mrs. Katzav,
Holocaust survivors and their families,
Distinguished Guests,

A Jew who steps on European soil feels an invisible cloud in the depth of his soul.  Under his feet are the traces of a culturally-rich Jewish presence with remarkable heritage, which was wiped out in an instant.  Above him are skies tainted by ineradicable smoke.  A warning and indictment hangs in the air, with only one word written on it: “remember!”

What did the damned Nazis have with the Jews? Why were they so intent on exterminating our people? Why did they allocate resources, manpower and an intricate organizational system for this purpose, at the expense of the war effort? What was the point of pursuing and persisting with this until the end, even when their defeat was no longer in question? Could the persecuted, tormented nation, crushed under the boots of the oppressor, have stopped the galloping German war train? How many divisions did the Jewish communities in Europe have? How many tanks, fighter-planes, rifles? Poet Uri Zvi Greenberg was right in saying that the Jewish people in Europe had “millions of men, but not one sword”!

It was that we, the Jews, were a horrible threat in the eyes of the Hitlerian regime.  Not a military threat, of course, but a moral one.  Opposite the lust for blood and satanic racist oppression, opposite the desecration of every humanistic or civilized value, opposite the denial of the image of G-d in man and triumph of good over evil – was the Jewish person, stripped of weapons, holding only the two Tablets of the Covenant and the Bible.  “Thou shalt not murder!”, he said, “love thy neighbor as thyself”, “seek and pursue peace!”.  He drove the Nazis mad.

This innocent Jew was transformed by the Nazis into a demon, a sub-human monster.  They labeled him a reptile, parasite, crawling rat, disease spreader.  This pure-hearted Jew, who was armed with nothing but a prayer book, a talit and teffilin, evoked the murderous fury of the Nazis.  He reminded them by his very presence what they sought to forget, make others forget and completely root out of human civilization: the values of justice, equality, grace and faith.  The “God’s candle human soul”, which the Nazis sought to extinguish forever.

As a Jew, I always carry in my heart the seal of pain over the Holocaust of my brothers and sisters.  But I am proud that we are the sworn enemy of the Nazi evil; I am proud of the heritage of our forefathers which is the absolute contradiction of the Hitlerian racial and murder doctrine; and I am proud of the founding of the State of Israel – the definitive moral answer to the enemy’s scheme. 

Anti-Semitism, tyranny, lust for murder and terrorism have not passed forever.  Even today, they hang over the head of the free world as a Sword of Damocles.  The lesson of World War II is that appeasement, surrender and weakness are a recipe for Holocaust.  Only a determined and firm moral stand, only willingness to fight for and protect liberty will guarantee the future of humanity.

Poet Yehuda Amihai, a son of Jerusalem, wrote:

“The forest of remembrance in which we loved was consumed by great fire.
But we remained alive and loving.
In memory of the burned forest and in memory of those who were burned, those remembered by the forest”. 

The State of Israel carries the memory of the burning, and Yad Vashem is for those who burned.  It knows what the hatred of Jews generated in the past, it watches with open eyes the carnival of enmity taking place around it, and it has learned the lesson.  The State of Israel has the ability to defend itself, but it calls upon the free world to stand with it in the battle to preserve light and liberty, and protect the values of justice and the image of man.

It calls upon every free and conscientious person to remember, and every peace-seeking nation, never to forget!