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“Never Again,” Netanyahu Pledges at Fifth World Holocaust Forum

January 24, 2020
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PM Netanyahu speaking at the World Holocaust Forum yesterday

Friday, 24 January 2020 | Editor’s Note: In what President Reuvin Rivlin hailed a “historic event,” dozens of world leaders gathered at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem yesterday afternoon for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camp.

Entitled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” the forum served as a reflection on the largest manifestation of hatred against the Jewish people in history to ensure that the horrors of the past are never repeated. With top dignitaries from 49 countries—including US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Charles from Britain and German President Frank Walter-Steinmeier in attendance—it was the largest-ever gathering focused on fighting anti-Semitism.

The list of speakers included representatives from the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany, the victors of World War II and Germany—the perpetrator of the Holocaust. 

One by one the world leaders stepped up to the podium to address the audience of presidents, prime ministers, kings, crown princes and Holocaust survivors. Pence commended the Jewish resilience to rise “from the ashes to reclaim a Jewish future and rebuild Jewish State,” and called on world leaders to “stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism”—Iran. Putin described the Holocaust as “one of the darkest and most shameful pages of modern world history” and highlighted the “shared responsibility” of the international community to its victims. Walter-Steinmeier admitted that “as President of Germany,” he felt a “heavy, historical burden of guilt.” He rejoiced, however, at the “spirit of reconciliation,” “for the hands of the survivors stretched out to us, for the new trust given to us by people in Israel.”

Speaking on behalf of the people of Israel was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  

“Honored dignitaries, President Reuven Rivlin, compliments on initiating this important conference.

My brothers and sisters, Holocaust survivors [and] Righteous Among the Nations.

The Righteous Among the Nations who risked not only their own lives, but the lives of their families to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The trees on this hallowed ground of Yad Vashem are a testament to their remarkable, extraordinary courage.

Your majesties, your Royal Highnesses, Presidents, Mr. Vice-President, Prime Ministers and the many distinguished guests and dignitaries assembled here.

Your presence in Jerusalem honors the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. Israel and the Jewish people thank you.

Auschwitz and Jerusalem: An abyss—and a peak. Auschwitz—extermination. Jerusalem—revival. Auschwitz—enslavement. Jerusalem—freedom. Auschwitz—death. Jerusalem—life. Seventy-five years ago, our people—the Jewish people—emerged from the largest killing field in the history of humanity. The survivors do not forget anything: the helplessness, the endless suffering, the flames and the smoke, the bereavement and the loss. But they also remember, with deep gratitude, the day of liberation, the entry of the Red Army into Auschwitz, the immense sacrifice of the allies, soldiers and peoples alike.

I come here, with President Rivlin and President Putin, from a moving ceremony, the dedication of the monument in memory of the victims of the siege of Leningrad. This is one example of the inconceivable price of the victory over the Nazis. But especially today, it must be said: for the 6 million of our people, including 1.5 million children, the gates of hell were broken into too late. Too late. And therefore, at the foundation of the revival of the State of Israel is one main imperative: there will never be a second Holocaust. As the prime minister of Israel, this is my supreme obligation.

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel is eternally grateful to the immense sacrifice that was made by the allies, by the peoples and the soldiers, to defeat the Nazis and save our common civilization. Without that sacrifice, there would be no survivors today.

Yet we also remember that some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world largely turned its back on us, leaving us to the most bitter of fates.

For many, Auschwitz is the ultimate symbol of evil. It is certainly that. The tattooed arms of those who passed under its infamous gates, the piles of shoes and eyeglasses seized from the dispossessed in their final moments, the gas chambers and crematoria that turned millions of people into ash, all these bear witness to the horrific depths to which humanity can sink.

But for the Jewish people, Auschwitz is more than the ultimate symbol of evil.

It is also the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. It is the culmination of what can happen when our people have no voice, no land [and] no shield.

Today, we have a voice, we have a land and we have a shield. Today, our voice is heard in the White House and in the Kremlin, in the halls of the United Nations and the American Congress, in London, Paris and Berlin, and in countless capitals around the world, many of them represented here by you.

Today, we have a land—our ancient homeland which we brought back to life, to which we ingathered the exiles of our people, and in which we built an advanced and powerful state.

And today, we have a shield. And what a shield it is. Time after time, the strength of our arms, the courage of our soldiers and the spirit of our people have prevailed against those who sought to destroy us. Our hand is extended in peace to all our neighbors, and a growing number of them are seizing it to build with Israel bridges of hope and reconciliation.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust: to always take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction; to confront threats when they are small; and above all, even though we deeply, deeply appreciate the great support of our friends, to always have the power to defend ourselves by ourselves. We have learned that Israel must always remain the master of its fate.

The Jewish state has learned the lessons of the Holocaust. Has the world learned the lessons of the Holocaust?

There are some signs of hope—and this extraordinary gathering is one of them. Today, the dangers of racism, hateful ideologies and anti-Semitism are better understood. Many recognize a simple truth: that what starts with the hatred of the Jews doesn’t end with the Jews. Represented here today are governments that understand that confronting anti-Semitism in all its forms protects their societies as well.

And Israel deeply appreciates this. We also appreciate, as many understand, as President Macron said yesterday, that anti-Zionism is merely the latest form of anti-Semitism. These are all real signs of hope and understanding and cognizance of how to protect our civilization and our world.

And yet, I am concerned. I am concerned that we have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet—a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state.

Israel salutes [US] President Trump and Vice President Pence for confronting the Tyrants of Tehran that subjugate their own people and threaten the peace and security of the entire world. They threaten the peace and security of everyone in the Middle East and everyone beyond. I call on all governments to join the vital effort of confronting Iran.

In any case, I wish to assure again our people and all our friends [that] Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state, defend our people and defend the Jewish future.

Ladies and gentlemen, as the Prime Minister of Israel, I promise that the words “Never again’ will be no empty slogan but an eternal call to action. With this call to action, we will continue our marvelous journey of the revival of our people that emerged from the valley of dry bones. From bones to independence, from independence to strength, from Auschwitz to Jerusalem, from darkness to light. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (9:2).

Posted on January 24, 2020

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs on January 23, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Пресс-служба Президента Российской Федерации/kremlin.ru/wikimedia.org

Photo License: wikimedia.org