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January 27, 2019 7:23 pm

Netanyahu, Trump Lead Heads of State Marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

A woman at Yad Vashem. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led a plethora of world leaders observing International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday.

Netanyahu marked the occasion by welcoming three Holocaust survivors to his office, recounting their stories, and warning against the rise of antisemitism in Europe today.

“Antisemitism from the right is not a new phenomenon there,” he said. “What is new in Europe is the combination of Islamic antisemitism and the antisemitism of the extreme left, which includes anti-Zionism, such as has recently occurred in Great Britain and in Ireland. What a disgrace. We condemn all forms of antisemitism as such.”

“During the Holocaust, the Jewish people were completely helpless,” noted the prime minister. “Today the state of the Jews is among the strongest and most advanced in the world. First and foremost, we have restored to our people the strength to resist that we lost in exile. In contrast to the terrible helplessness of our people then, today we strike at those who seek our lives and hurt all those who try to hurt us. At the same time, we do not forget our dead, our enemies, and our rescuers.”

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Detailing the experiences of his survivor guests, Moshe Haelyon, Mordecai (Motka) Weisel, and Malka Steinmetz, Netanyahu said,  “We are honored with the presence of Moshe, Malka, and Motka, Holocaust survivors that I just met before the meeting.”

“Moshe survived the death camps and the death march. Malka lost her five sisters in the crematoria and has a number burned onto her arm. Motka, whose brother fell at Latrun, interrupted an SS officer who whipped his back. The penalty for such an offense was immediate death, but he somehow survived. By this unbelievable act of heroism he served as an example to thousands. The story spread among thousands and he served as an example to thousands, and to us. The moving stories of the revival of Moshe, Malka, and Motka are the story of our revival.”

“At the same time,” the prime minister concluded, “we honor the memory of the righteous among the nations. Today in Jerusalem a plaque was unveiled in memory of Japanese Consul [Chiune-Sempo] Sugihara who saved thousands of European Jews during the Holocaust. We bow our heads in his memory.”

Netanyahu was joined by US President Donald Trump, who pledged, “We remain committed to the post-Holocaust imperative, ‘Never Again.'”

“‘Never Again’ means not only remembering — in a profound and lasting way — the evils of the Holocaust,” he elaborated, “but it also means remembering the individual men and women in this Nation, and throughout the world, who have devoted their lives to the preservation and security of the Jewish people and to the betterment of all mankind.”

Trump continued, “The Third Reich, and its collaborators, pursued the complete elimination of the entire Jewish people. Six million Jews were systematically slaughtered in horrific ways. The Nazis also enslaved and murdered Slavs, Roma, gays, people with disabilities, religious leaders, and others who courageously opposed their cruel regime. The brutality of the Holocaust was a crime against men, women, and children. It was a crime against humanity. It was a crime against God.”

“On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we hold in our hearts the memory of every man, woman, and child who was abused, tortured, or murdered during the Holocaust,” the president stated. “To remember these men and women — those who perished and those who survived — is to strive to prevent such suffering from happening again. Any denial or indifference to the horror of this chapter in the history of humankind diminishes all men and women everywhere and invites repetition of this great evil.”

Trump’s statement also included the story of the first American witnesses to the aftermath of the Holocaust. “On April 27, 1945,” said Trump, “a young soldier of the 12th Armored Division of the United States Army wrote these astonishing words to his wife in the United States: ‘Although I may never talk about what I have witnessed today, I will never forget what I have seen.’ Aaron A. Eiferman’s division was moving to a new position near Dachau when they came across a prison camp. His historic account, like all subsequent descriptions, lacked the words to adequately convey the horror and the suffering that occurred at Dachau and in the other concentration and death camps of the Holocaust.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May issued a picture of a handwritten statement on Twitter that read, “In a world where hatred of others is becoming increasingly commonplace, we can choose to stand as one against those who peddle it.”

May also pointed to contemporary antisemitism, asserting, “At a time where Jews are being targeted simply because of who they are, all of us of any faith can come together in their defense.”

“And as the Shoah begins to drift to the edge of living memory, we can once again commit ourselves to remembering those who were murdered, and to ensuring that such a human catastrophe is never permitted to happen again,” she added.

In his own statement, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Holocaust “a stark reminder of the dangers of hatred and discrimination, and the irreversible consequences of inaction and indifference.”

“On this day, we repeat the vow, ‘Never Again’ — not as a phrase, but as a promise to remain vigilant against the threat of genocide,” he pledged. “We must preserve the memories of those who lived through the horrors of the Shoah, so that our generation — and those to come — will never forget their stories.”

Turning to his own country, Trudeau admonished, “We must also acknowledge Canada’s own history of anti-Semitism, and its devastating results. In November, the Government issued a long-overdue apology for Canada’s inaction and apathy toward Jews during the Nazi era. Our country’s disgraceful ‘none is too many’ immigration policy doomed many Jews to Nazi death camps, including hundreds of Jewish refugees aboard the MS St. Louis. No words will ever erase this tragedy — but it is our sincere hope that this apology will help ensure the lessons we have learned are never forgotten.”

“We are not immune to the effects of ignorance and hate,” the prime minister added. “The threats of violence, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism still exist today. The murder of eleven Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh — one of the deadliest attacks against Jews in North American history — is fresh in our minds. The Government will continue to stand with the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, and call out the anti-Semitism, hatred, and racism that incites such despicable acts.”

French President Emmanuel Macron simply tweeted a picture of a memorial candle with the words “light of remembrance” in French.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez also took to Twitter in honor of the occasion, saying, “We shall not forget the barbarism of antisemitism, racism, and intolerance.”

In Germany, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas warned in an opinion column that Germany’s “culture of remembrance is crumbling” due to “pressure from the extreme right.” On Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel had declared “zero tolerance” for antisemitism and remarked, “People growing up today must know what people were capable of in the past, and we must work proactively to ensure that it is never repeated.”

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