As Israel Marks Yom HaShoah, PM Bennett Stresses Holocaust as ‘Unprecedented Event in Human History’
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett marked the onset of the country’s annual Holocaust commemoration day, Yom HaShoah, with a resolute reminder of the uniqueness of the Nazi genocide against the Jews.
Speaking at Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, Bennett observed that “the Holocaust is an unprecedented event in human history.”
In a nod to the invocation of the Holocaust in contexts as varied as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Bennett continued: “I take the trouble to say this because as the years go by, there is more and more discourse in the world that compares other difficult events to the Holocaust. But no. Even the most difficult wars today are not the Holocaust and are not comparable to the Holocaust.”
Describing the Nazi extermination of six million Jews as the “ultimate, absolute expression of thousands of years of antisemitism,” Bennett commented that hatred of Jews follows no specific logic. “The Jews are succeeding? It’s a reason for antisemitism,” he stated. “The Jews are failing and the poor are rebellious? It’s a reason for antisemitism. The Jews are a landless people, cut off from their land for generations? It’s a reason to hate them. The Jews have established a successful and strong state? It’s a reason to hate them.”
Bennett argued that self-reliance and a focus on building a strong Jewish state was the way to counter antisemitism. “The State of Israel is strong. We are building bridges to new and old friends and deepening our alliances. But alongside our friends and allies near and far, we must remember a basic truth: We will only be able to exist in our country if we deepen our roots in our land,” the prime minister said.
President Isaac Herzog also spoke at Yad Vashem on Wednesday evening, issuing a pledge to those Holocaust survivors who are still alive.
“Our beloved Holocaust survivors, your memory is our memory, and the task of bequeathing it falls to all of us,” Herzog declared. “It is we who bear the duty to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and to hand them down, from generation to generation.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a joint German-Israeli commemoration ceremony was led by Mickey Levy, the speaker of the Israeli Knesset, and Bärbel Bas, the president of the German Bundestag.
“We mustn’t forget,” Bas wrote in the Yad Vashem guest book. “Germans wiped out six million lives. I think of the dead with deep sadness and shame.”
Bas added that her sense of shame stemmed from the realization that “Germans, our ancestors, planned the annihilation in a cold manner and implemented it brutally.” She thanked Yad Vashem for giving the victims of the Holocaust “a face and a name.”