Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yom HaShoah: Address by President Peres and PM Netanyahu


Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2012  
Yad Vashem - The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority  
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2012
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah in Hebrew) is a national day of commemoration in Israel, on which the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialized. It is a solemn day, beginning at sunset on the 27th of the month of Nisan (April 18, 2012) and ending the following evening.
The central theme for this year: My Brother's Keeper - Jewish Solidarity During the Holocaust

Yom Hashoah - Address by President Shimon Peres

18 Apr 2012
Holocaust deniers negate the deeds of their predecessors so as to cover their own crimes. The falsehood of negation will not extinguish the fire of the inferno.
Yom Hashoah - Address by President Shimon Peres
  Photo: Isaac Harari / Yad Vashem
[Translated from Hebrew]
On my way here, the glowing lights of Jerusalem were suddenly replaced by the sparks of fire which once consumed my people. This is us. This is our people, a people of illumination, an orphan people. This is us. Holocaust survivors, builders of resurgence, my brothers and sisters, tonight our tearing eyes turn to those who are not here with us, and our wide opened eyes gaze upon the yet to come.
During the holidays I travelled all over the country. Blue skies, blooming fields, lovely children, hard-working people. I wondered about the communities they originated from which are no longer. For a moment, I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna, Haifa with Bialystok, Degania, Nahalal, Beer-Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, Odessa. Not a single Jew remains there. The furnaces of the Nazi dictator and his emissaries brought calamity to the world and a holocaust onto my people.
Holocaust deniers negate the deeds of their predecessors so as to cover their own crimes. The falsehood of negation will not extinguish the fire of the inferno. The piles of tortured bodies, the wounded thrown into the ditches of death, the furnaces burning the living. These are our witnesses for ever. The last breath of the infants in their mothers' arms will continue to horrify all human beings, until the end of time.

I was born in Vishniev. Half of the townspeople came to Israel. The other half perished. After the war, I learned that on Sunday, August 30th, a dark dawn had come upon my hometown. The Nazis who had seized it ordered the Jews to pack their belongings and present themselves at their doorsteps.

The SS officers passed by striking them and told them to proceed towards the synagogue. One of them cried out "Jews, save yourselves!" The Germans shot down those who tried to escape. The rest reached the synagogue which was made of wood. The doors were locked. All were burned alive. That was the last day of Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, my grandfather, my mentor. He was consumed by fire with his tallit on his head.
That was the last Jewish day in Vishniev. Not even a single Jew remained alive.
I visited Vishniev after the war. Not a Jewish mark remains. Not a house, not a synagogue, not a school, not a cemetery, only a heap of stones. As I stood there, the last Kol Nidrei prayer emitted by my grandfather's sweet voice rang in my ears. My lips murmured the Kadish.

Tonight many Holocaust survivors are present, along with the children of those villages who built the new Israel.
The Nazis created industries of death, assembly lines of murder, choking gas plants. No such thing has ever happened in history. So organized, so systematic, so inhumane.

It happened in Europe, the epitome of enlightenment. It originated in Germany which claimed to be the spearhead in culture.  But it was all vain.
The Jews in Germany improved its culture, elevated its scientific level, enriched its economy , like all of Europe's' Jewry.
Why did Hitler identify them as his greatest enemy? The answer is clear-  the moral strength of the Jews was more dangerous to him than the military menace of his neighbors. The Nazis feared that the Jewish conviction that all men are born in the image of God would damage the fascist lie according to which there is a superior race. They feared the prophetic vision may dent the Nazi sword.
I am proud to be an arch enemy to the Nazi evil. I am proud of our fathers' legacy being absolutely opposed to racism.  I am proud of our belief that there is no one man superior to another man.
There is no superior race, only deep roots.

I am certain that this is how our children and grandchildren will be brought up; as the Kadish is on their lips, "Love your neighbor as yourself" is in their hearts.
My friends, a million and a half Israeli citizens are not Jewish. We are obligated to make sure that none of them are ever discriminated because of their nationality or religion. This is the essence of the existence of the State of Israel. Israel is a defense shield, a safe haven and a great spirit. Had the State of Israel existed during those days, I am convinced that things would have been different. We have paid a high price but we have not lost faith.
We have gathered unusual capacities which emerged from the depths of the Holocaust and from the peaks of our legacy. We have a commitment towards the betterment of the world and respect for humanity.

The strengths of our nation are concealed in its history and contained in the souls of its sons. We used to be a question mark, now we are a strong country. Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late.
Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace.
There is no reason to undermine Israel's capacities to face this threat, whether visible or hidden. We have engendered a young generation with wide shoulders to carry the load.  They are more than capable of leading Israel to its historic destiny following the Ten Commandments, Yavneh and its Sages, and Isaiah's prophecy.
We will say Kadish in memory of our brothers, sisters, parents and children who were killed in martyrdom. And we will ensure our children remain Jewish, body and soul, as they carry the load of Israel's security and the peace of the Jewish Nation is on their shoulders. We came today to say Kadish in memory of our beloved ones who were killed in the Holocaust. We came to say and to swear "Never again". We came to say that we are a peaceful people who can defend itself. We can and we will. We have built and we shall build.
We will always remember our 6 million brothers who perished in the Holocaust. In one week we will raise the flags of Israel's Independence which rose for the first time 64 years ago. Today, it is clear that the reality we have built is the vision we once dreamed. We will proudly wave the flags of the future of Israel, as an independent, moral, creative and contributing state. Let us wave the flags of peace, security and brotherhood.

Yom Hashoah - Address by PM Netanyahu

18 Apr 2012
Those who dismiss Iran's threats as exaggerated or as mere idle posturing have learned nothing from the Holocaust. The memory of the Holocaust obligates us to apply the lessons of the past to ensure the basis of our future.
Yom Hashoah - Address by PM Netanyahu
  Photo: Isaac Harari / Yad Vashem
[Translated from Hebrew]
Yesterday morning, I visited an old-age home for Holocaust survivors. There, I met Idit Yapo, an amazing woman of 104, clear and lucid. Idit fled Germany shortly after Hitler gained power, in 1934.
I met 89-year-old Esther Nadiv, one of Mendele's twins. She was reading a book, Golda Meir's biography, and she told me, with a glint in her eye, she said: "I am so proud, so very proud to be a part of the State of Israel which is in constant development."
I met Hanoch Mandelbaum, an 89-year-old survivor of Bergen-Belsen. Shortly after he came to Israel, as a young carpenter, he helped construct the desk upon which Ben Gurion signed the Declaration of Independence. That is MiSho'a liTkuma - from holocaust to resurrection.
And I met Elisheva Lehman, an 88 year-old Holocaust survivor from Holland, who was a music teacher. I asked Elisheva if she would play something for us and she did. She enthusiastically played "Am Yisrael Chai" and we all sung together. It was quite emotional.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Am Yisrael Chai [The nation of Israel lives].
Our enemies tried to bury the Jewish future, but it was reborn in the land of our forefathers. Here, we built a foundation for a new beginning of freedom, hope, and creation. Year after year, decade after decade, we built the foundations of our country, and we will continue to yearly strengthen the pillars of our national life.
On this day, when our entire nation gathers together to remember the horrors of the Holocaust and the six million Jews who were murdered, we must fulfill our most sacred obligation. This obligation is not merely an obligation to remember the past. It is an obligation to learn its lessons, and, most importantly, to apply them to the present in order to secure the future of our people. We must remember the past and secure the future by applying the lessons of the past.
This is especially true for this generation - a generation that once again is faced with calls to annihilate the Jewish state.
One day, I hope that the State of Israel will enjoy peace with all the countries and all the peoples in our region. One day, I hope that we will read about these calls to destroy the Jews only in history books and not in daily newspapers. But that day has not yet come.
Today, the regime in Iran openly calls and determinedly works for our destruction. And it is feverishly working to develop atomic weapons to achieve that goal.

I know that there are those who do not like when I speak such uncomfortable truths. They prefer that we not speak of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat. They say that such language, even if true, only sows fear and panic.
I ask, have these people lost all faith in the people of Israel? Do they think that this nation, which has overcome every danger, lacks the strength to confront this new threat? Did the State of Israel not triumph over existential threats when it was far less powerful than it is today? Did its leaders have any qualms about saying the truth?
David Ben Gurion told the people of Israel the truth about the existential dangers they faced in 1948 when five Arab armies tried to snuff Israel out in its cradle. Levi Eshkol told the people of Israel the truth in 1967 when a noose was being placed around Israel's neck and we stood alone to face our fate. And when they heard these truths, did the people of Israel panic or did they unite to thwart the dangers?  Were we paralyzed with fear or did we do what was necessary to protect ourselves.
I believe in the people of Israel - and this belief is based on our experiences. I believe that the people of Israel can handle the truth. And I believe that they we have the capability to defeat those who seek to harm us.
Those who dismiss Iran's threats as exaggerated or as mere idle posturing have learned nothing from the Holocaust. But we should not be surprised. There have always been those among us who prefer to mock those who tell uncomfortable truths than squarely face the truth themselves.
That is how Zev Jabotinsky was received when he warned the Jews of Poland of the looming Holocaust. This is what he said in 1938, in Warsaw: "It is already THREE years that I am calling upon you, Polish Jewry, who are the crown of World Jewry. I continue to warn you incessantly that a catastrophe is coming closer. I became grey and old in these years, my heart bleeds, that you, dear brother and sisters, do not see the volcano which will soon begin to spit its all-consuming lava…I see that you are not seeing this because you are immersed and sunk in your daily worries… Listen to me in this twelfth hour: In the name of G-d! Let anyone of you save himself, as long as there is still time, and time there is very little."
But the leading Jewish intellectuals of the day ridiculed Jabotinsky, and rather than heed his warning, they attacked him. This is what Sholem Asch, one of our nation's greatest writers, said about him: "What Jabotinsky is now doing in Poland is going too far. His statement is detrimental to Zionism and to the vital interests of our people… It is disgraceful that these are leaders of a nation."
I know there are also those who believe that the unique evil of the Holocaust should never be invoked in discussing other threats facing the Jewish people. To do so, they argue, is to belittle the Holocaust and to offend its victims.
I totally disagree. On the contrary. To cower from speaking the uncomfortable truth - that today like then, there are those who want to destroy millions of Jewish people - that is to belittle the Holocaust, that is to offend its victims and that is to ignore the lessons. Not only does the Prime Minister of Israel have the right, when speaking of these existential dangers, to invoke the memory of a third of our nation which was annihilated. It is his duty.
There is a memorable scene in Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah that explains this obligation more than anything. In the harsh existence in the Warsaw Ghetto, Leon Feiner of the Bund and Menachem Kirschenbaum of the General Zionists met with Jan Karski from the Polish World War II Resistance Movement. Jan Karski was a decent, sensitive man, and they begged him to appeal to the conscience of the world against the Nazi crimes. They described what was happening, they showed him, but to no avail. They said: "Help us. We have no country of our own, we have no government, and we even have no voice among the nations. "They were right.
Seventy years ago the Jewish people did not have the national capacity to summon the nations, nor the military might to defend itself. But today things are different. Today we have an army. We have the ability, the duty and the determination to defend ourselves.
As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never shy from speaking the truth before the world, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem to some. I speak the truth at the United Nations; I speak the truth in Washington DC, the capital of our great friend, the United States, and in other important capitals; And I speak the truth here in Jerusalem, on the grounds of Yad VaShem which are saturated with remembrance. I will continue to speak the truth to the world, but first and foremost I must speak it to my own people. I know that my people is strong enough to hear the truth.
The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat of the State of Israel. The truth is that a nuclear-armed Iran is an political threat to other countries throughout the region and a grave threat to the world peace. The truth is that Iran must be stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons. It is the duty of the whole world, but above and beyond, it is OUR duty.
The memory of the Holocaust goes beyond holding memorial services; it is not merely a historical recollection. The memory of the Holocaust obligates us to apply the lessons of the past to ensure the basis of our future. We will never bury our heads in the sand.
Am Yisrael chai, veNetzach Yisrael lo yeshaker [The nation of Israel lives, and the Eternal one of Israel does not lie.]