Full Transcript: Speech by Shimon Peres for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day
Below is the full transcript of Israeli President Shimon Peres’s speech delivered on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2013.
Dear Holocaust survivors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, President of the Supreme Court, Justice Asher Grunis, Chief Rabbis Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yona Metzger, our dear friend Prime Minister Tony Blair, our dear friend the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, John Baird, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau Chairman of the Directorate of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev. Righteous Among the Nations, honored guests, the Holocaust will not sink into the dark hole of history. It is here with us, burning, real.
It resonates as we step on the stones of the ghettos. It floats like a ghost in the barracks of the camps. It cries from the prayer shawls, the hair, the shoes that we see with our own eyes. It whispers from the tears that dried before we said goodbye. It is reflected in the photographs of the babies in their mothers’ arms. The noise of those murderous trains which have ceased stills rings in our ears. The smoke which has not faded as it drifted into the sky above.
Survivors walk among us, the Holocaust and its horrors are with them every day. Their blood flows through our veins. Their bravery accompanies every step of our lives. There was no greater horror in the history of mankind. Nothing can remove the greatest darkness that mankind has known The 74 years which have passed are more biography than history. Millions of names are still missing, of parents and children, of whole Jewish communities who were murdered. There is no substitute for the culture, for the values, for the talents which were and are no longer. They remain as an open wound.
We will not stop searching for every scrap of information, for a name yet to be identified, for a photograph that has been blurred. A third of our people, six million, were murdered with no reason. The Jewish people today are fewer in number then on the eve of World War Two. We decreased in number, but not in spirit. We are working with all our might to fill the void, physically and spiritually, to grow out of the ashes, to create out of nothing, to build protection, to build a new independence, and not tire from working for a better world, for Tikkun Olam.
The Holocaust is an orphan with no comfort and a moral responsibility without compromise. It does not permit us, the Jewish people, to turn a blind eye. It must always be a warning to the entire human family. The map of Europe stills contains local stains of anti-Semitism. Racism erupted on that land in the last century and dragged it down to its lowest point. Ultimately the murder which came from her, damaged her.
To our shame, there remain some who learned nothing. Young skinheads. False scientists dressed in false suits. Yes! There remain those who forget the Holocaust, those who deny it.
Not all the flames have been extinguished. Crises are once again exploited to form Nazi parties, ridiculous but dangerous. Sickening anti-Semitic cartoons are published allegedly in the name of press freedom. The journey for justice and freedom is not yet over. When I hear the four words, ‘Let My People Go’ I feel again and again that the journey out of the house of slavery, which began in our people and has not yet ended, must not stop. It must not stop until slavery, in all its forms, is stopped. In every place, in every situation. Until the winds of freedom blow away the stench of racism and decimate the evil smoke.
The civilized world must ask itself how in such a short space of time after the crematoria were extinguished, after the terrible death toll that the allied powers endured to put an end to the Nazi devil, it is still possible for the leadership, like that of Iran, to openly deny the Holocaust and threaten another Holocaust. Whoever ignores the threat against one nation, must know that the threat of a Holocaust against one nation is a threat of a Holocaust against all nations. The Jewish people are a small nation in number but large in spirit. That spirit cannot be burned in the ovens.
From the ashes of the Holocaust rose spiritual redemption and political rebirth. We rose and we built a state of our own. We lost possessions, but retained our values. We returned to our ancient homeland. We renewed our moral legacy. We returned to independence. We returned to creating, to educating and we returned to hope. We built a defensive force capable of dealing with dangers, new and old. The Israel Defence Forces, which was formed in response to the attempt to annihilate the Jewish State which had just been created, is also the right lesson from the Holocaust. It is founded upon the bravery of Jews in the Holocaust.
Today, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day is also the memorial day for 70 years since the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. There was a never a rebellion like it. They were so few and their bravery remained as a model for so many. From now and forever. Today we salute their bravery with the flags flying in the wind of freedom. These are flags of exaltation, not only of grief. A clear line exists between the resistance in the ghettos, in the camps and in the forests and the rebirth and bravery of the State of Israel. It is a line of dignity, of renewed independence, of mutual responsibility, of exalting g-d’s name. As a ray of hope which was not extinguished even during terrible anguish. The ghetto fighters sought life even when circumstance screamed despair.
A few days ago Peretz Hochman passed away. The small tobacco seller who became a great hero. Peretz Hochman came home to Israel and fought in Israel’s wars with the courage which typified him. He passed away only a few days before he was meant to stand with us, here today, on this stage and light the torch. His light will continue to illuminate. Raising the heroism of the fighters is not just a matter of doing justice to their bravery. It is an existential need, for each of us, for all us as a people. It is time. We did not always listen to the beat of their hearts. To the health. The time has come to repair.
The history of the Holocaust is not just a lesson from the past, it is also a lesson for the future. That we will know to defend ourselves against dangers and intercept them before time. That we can rely on ourselves. That we must maintain our moral legacy, which withstood even impossible situations. That we can maintain friendship with friends, and work with them to foster a better future, for every person, for every nation, for all nations, and to guard against humanity ever losing its humanity again.
We’ll ensure that every person will have the right to be different, different and equal. We will never despair. After all, we were commanded; “Do not fear, my servant Jacob” because “The Lord will give strength to his people.”