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January 22, 2020 3:16 pm

Israeli President Welcomes Foreign Leaders to World Holocaust Forum: ‘This Is a Historic Gathering’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomes foreign leaders to the World Holocaust Forum at a dinner held at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Jan. 22, 2020. Photo: YouTube screenshot.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin welcomed world leaders to the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem on Wednesday, calling the event “a historic gathering.”

The forum — set to be held on Thursday at Yad Vashem — will see the participation of 46 heads of state and government from around the world to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, making it the largest diplomatic gathering in Israeli history.

Speaking at an opening dinner at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem for leaders who had already arrived in the country, Rivlin said, “This is a historic gathering, not only for Israel and the Jewish people, but for all humanity.”

“This evening as we remember the victims of the Holocaust and World War II, we also mark the victory of freedom and human dignity,” he stated. “Tomorrow, we will gather at Yad Vashem to remember and to promise, ‘Never again.’”

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In a remark that some saw as a reference to a spat between Russia and Poland over responsibility for World War II, Rivlin said, “Historical research should be left to historians. The role of political leaders, of all of us, is to shape the future. Leave history for the historians.”

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda refused to attend the forum after he was told he could not give an address, while Russian President Vladimir Putin will be allowed to do so.

Rivlin also commented on the steadily-dwindling community of Holocaust survivors, saying, “At a time when more and more survivors are leaving us, this gathering is an expression of our shared commitment to pass on the historical facts and lessons of the Shoah to the next generation.”

“Your excellencies, dear friends, the future lies in the choices we make, especially those we make together as countries and nations,” Rivlin said. “I hope and pray that from this room, the message will go out to every country on Earth, that the leaders of the world will stand united together in the fight against racism, antisemitism and extremism; in defending democracy and democratic values.”

“This is the call of our time. This is our challenge. This is our choice,” the president concluded.

Among those in attendance at the dinner were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, French President Emmanuel Macron and King Felipe VI of Spain.

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