Speech of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the 2018 March of the Living Gathering in Poland

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“Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokainu Hashem Echad.”

This is the cry of our brothers and sisters in this very place.

I can close my eyes and hear the weeping of the mothers

As their children were ripped out of their arms.

I see the horror of the fathers as their loved ones were

Burned before their eyes.

The accursed “selection” process : for life or for death

The barking of the dogs

The blood – curdling orders of the guards.

“Schnell, schnell”  Quickly, quickly.

They killed the Jews quickly, quickly.

“A person was taken off the train in the morning,”

Wrote Raoul Hilberg, “and in the evening his body was

Cremated and his clothes packaged up ready to be sent to Germany.”

From the time this railway line by which we now stand, was laid down,

From the spring of 1944 the Auschwitz train station

Became the busiest train station in all of Europe.

The extermination process became ever shorter, from

One whole day to four hours.

Four hours, and whole lives went up in smoke.

Loves, fears, beliefs, hopes, pain, memory:

For Nazi Germany, they were merely numbers,

Without any identity or name.

Germanic efficiency was exploited to the full.

In Auschwitz alone, some million and a hundred thousand human beings

Were tortured, slaughtered, murdered, cremated and erased

From the face of the earth.

One million of them were Jews.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We stand here and we know,

That from this place we cannot hope for justice.

In this place –

Where the ashes of our brothers and sisters

Were swallowed by the soil –

No justice will grow.

We do not expect justice in Europe that seeks –

Too quickly –

To forget, to eradicate the memory,

To deny, [to destroy evidence].

But,

Our memory,

The memory of the Jewish People,

Is the antithesis of the haste of the Nazis.

We are a nation that remembers,

Our memory is patient.

Everything done to us by Amalek

Is engraved in our memory,

The memory of an ancient nation.

Also engraved in our memory are those

Who helped Amalek.

Those who stood to the side,

Those who saw the smoking chimneys,

Those who heard the cries,

But never lifted a finger.

Engraved in our memory are those

Who, after the end of the War thought

That Jewish blood is cheap, forsaken,

And so they slaughtered those Jews who

Returned to their homes.

There is the Holocaust,

And there are Holocaust deniers,

And the difference between the two –

Is the truth.

And we, who remember, who stand here,

We know,

The truth will grow out of the Earth.

Your Excellency, President of Poland,

The Polish nation barely survived the Second World War.

In September 1939, Poland had become the greatest field of death,

Murder and destruction in Europe.

It was an area under Nazi occupation,

And the Poles were an oppressed people,

Living in fear.

There was also a Polish underground resistance

And a Polish Government in exile.

The people of Poland produced thousands of

“Righteous among the Nations”.

Men and women who put their own lives

And the lives of their dear ones at risk for the sake of others.

And they too are remembered,

And we will remember and honor each of those men and women forever.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny the truth.

The Nazi death machine would not have been able

To achieve its terrible vision, if it had not received help:

If it had not found a fertile ground of hatred for Jews,

In which to take root.

True, it was Germany that established the Camps,

But our People were not murdered only in the Camps.

The members of our nation were betrayed by the people amongst

Whom they lived, in France, in Holland and in Belgium.

They were murdered by Ukrainians, Lithuanians and yes – also by Poles.

Too many citizens in Eastern Europe and in Western Europe,

Stole Jewish property, took control of Jewish homes,

Handed over their Jewish neighbors,

Murdered them, and turned their backs on those who,

Just a moment before,  had been a part of them.

And when the survivors of the Holocaust returned after the war,

They were sometimes met with hostility,

Violence, pogroms and murder.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Polish people were killed and murdered in the cruel War,

We, the Jews, were slaughtered in the Holocaust.

A Holocaust that included not only concentration camps,

But also killing pits, ghettoes, forced labor and pogroms.

A Holocaust that included the slaughter and murder and death

Through torture, of one and a half million babies and children

Whose only sin was that they were born Jewish.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is the right of every nation – to rewrite sections of its own narrative.

It is permitted for every nation,

It is fitting that every nation – should rebuild itself from its ruins.

I do not want to interfere with Polish history.

Poland knows how to do its own soul searching.

However, if the Polish People feels that its image has been distorted

By the events of the Holocaust it is more important that we cooperate,

That we invest in education.

That together, we establish institutions, that together we work on

Commemoration and remembrance,

That together, we, Poles and Jews, study what happened,

That we make sure that it will never happen again.

[Hans Frank, the German Governor of the Generalgouvernement, said at

The Nuremberg Trials:

“A thousand years may pass, but still Germany’s guilt will not have been erased.” A thousand years.]

Germany did not purchase the forgiveness of the Jews,

just as no nation can legislate their forgetting.

For no legislation can cover over the blood.

No self-interest can cover over anti – Semitism, racism, hatred of the other.

Not in Austria,

Not in Holland,

not in Belgium and, above all,

not in Germany.

But those who are willing to bravely look straight into their past,

Those who are willing to bravely deal with the anti – Semitism and the racism

That continue to raise their heads even today

Will find in us allies,

determined, true partners to pave the way that leads

from remembrance to the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

we shall always remember, from generation to generation,

the amazing goodness of the thousands of men and women

who risked their own lives in order to save others.

We shall always remember the horrifying human evil of the Nazis,

and their collaborators from all nations.

We shall always remember the members of our nation,

each man,

each woman,

by their names in their lives not only in their deaths.

We shall remember their narratives, their customs,

Their everyday lives.

What they liked to read, what they studied, what they dreamed of

becoming and doing.

Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust,

but for us, they will never be a number.

Year by year,

We discover more details about them,

and our one and only aim is to know not only that

“To every person there is a name”, but what was their name?

Who were they?

How did they live?

And how did they die?

It will take time but we will know.

We shall continue to plumb the depths of remembrance, in Germany,

In Austria, in Ukraine, in Poland, in Hungary, in Greece,

In each and every place.

The archives, the relatives, the testimonies,

And the silences, every one of them will eventually be revealed.

There are here with us today survivors,

Whose bodies and souls testify to those horrors to this day.

They will hand on to us the torch of memory, and we shall carry it

From generation to generation.

I stand here today as President of the State of Israel, the State of the Jewish People, on Holocaust

Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day.

Seventy five years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising;

Seventy years since the establishment of the State of Israel;

The Thirtieth anniversary of the March of the Living.

Thirty years ago the first March of the Living took place and

Every year since then, in close cooperation with the Polish Government

And the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, more

Than a quarter million of young Jew and non- jes have marched here.

And today, we marched with them.

Survivors of the Holocaust, people who escaped the Holocaust, living witnesses,

All marched before us.

We did not march from Auschwitz to Birkenau.

We did not march from Auschwitz 1 to Auschwitz 2.

We marched from death to life.

We marched from the Holocaust to the Revival.

We marched from Auschwitz to Jerusalem.

Each footstep in this march was a step in the history of the Jewish People.

An ancient and surviving nation, that has been blessed

With enormous powers of creativity;

Of both spiritual and practical strengths.

A nation that was privileged to return to its homeland after two thousand

Years of exile, to rebuild a national home as a free people among the family of nations.

The nation that was born through [G-d’s] command [to Abraham] to:

“Go forth,” and continues to go forward, to walk in the March of the Living.

Continues to affirm

“Am Yisrael chai”

2 COMMENTS

  1. ידוע שמרן הגר”ע יוסף הורה: אין לומר תחנון ביום העצמאות. ולא לומר הלל ביום האבל לאומי של יום העצמאות. במכתב שהתפרסם מאת מרן הגר”ע יוסף זצ”ל בנושא יום העצמאות, מגלה את דעתו בדבר אמירת תחנון ביום זה.

    מדובר בשאלה שמרן זצ”ל נשאל מאת “ישיבה לצעירים מעיין חיים ושלום” – אשקלון. במכתב נשאל: “לכבוד מרן שליט”א נשיא ישיבתנו הקדושה. אחרי דרישת שלום, הננו בזאת לשאול לדעתו דעת עליון כיצד עלינו לנהוג ביום העצמאות וביום ירושלים, האם לומר תחנון והלל? או להתפלל כרגיל מידי יום? כנהוג בישיבות הקדושות, או ח”ו לנהוג אחרת? נודה מאוד למעכת״ר אם ישיבנו תשובה ברורה בנושא”.

    ענה להם מרן פוסק הדור זצ”ל בכתב ידו: “אין לומר תחנון בימים הנ”ל וגם לא לומר הלל, רק להתפלל כרגיל, וללמוד בהתמדה ביתר שאת וביתר עוז”.

    אז גם אומר מרן זצ”ל: “ואנחנו מתפללים עוד להקב”ה שיוסיף אחריתנו לראשיתנו ויהיה לנו ממשלה שכולם יראי שמיים, כולם צדיקים, כולם אוהבים את התורה” ולא משומדים רשעים וכו’. המדינה קיימת רק בזכות התורה, ולא להיפך. שהמדינה תגיד ‘תודה’ ללומדי התורה, שרק בזכותה היא קיימת, ולא להיפך, חד וחלק!!

  2. ביום העצמאות בתחילת קום המדינה הרב עובדיה ישב בשק ואפר ובכה על החורבן של הציונים, רק עתה כלפי חוץ זורק מילים מכסות, וזאת מתוך דעת תורה שלו שכדי להשפיע ירא”ש אי אפשר לצאת לגמרי עם דעה ברורה בענין כי הציבור לא יקבל.

    הרב עובדיה היה שומע שיחות של הרב דוד יונגרייז מהבד”ץ ומרבו הרב עטיה ששלל את הבחירות ואת המדינה, וכף החיים יצא בחריפות נגד הרעיון הציוני וגם נגד הרב שנתמנה מטעמם הרב קוק, וכן הרב אלפנדרי ועוד מגדולי רבני הספרדים.

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