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July 13, 2022 2:41 pm
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Biden Honors Holocaust Victims, Shares Warm Exchange With Survivors in Jerusalem

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

President Joe Biden visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Israel, on July 13, 2022. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO

US President Joe Biden began his visit to Israel on Wednesday with a trip to Yad Vashem, the Jewish state’s national Holocaust memorial, where he commemorated the millions who perished at the hands of the Nazis, before meeting with two women who survived against all odds.

After being welcomed at Ben Gurion Airport that afternoon, Biden and his delegation headed to the remembrance center in Jerusalem, where they were joined by President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and other senior Israeli officials.

Participants gathered in the Hall of Remembrance, where they heard a youth choir performance of the Hebrew poem “A Walk to Caesarea,” written in 1942 by Jewish World War II partisan Hannah Szenes. The US leader then rekindled the Eternal Flame and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony in the hall, where the ashes of Holocaust victims murdered in extermination camps are buried.

Cantor Shmuel Berlad concluded the ceremony by reciting the Jewish prayer El Maleh Rachamim, for the souls of the departed.

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Before exiting the hall, Biden took time to speak with two women, Rena Quint and Dr. Giselle (Gita) Cycowicz, who survived the Holocaust before immigrating to the United States and, in later life, making aliya to Israel.

The president urged the women, who rose as he approached, to remain seated and greeted them warmly. The trio spoke for some six minutes, before being joined by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Herzog, Lapid, and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Lapid lost relatives in the Holocaust, while Gantz was born to Holocaust survivors. Blinken’s stepfather, a Holocaust survivor, co-founded the French Society for Yad Vashem.

While the setting was somber and the exchange seemingly emotional, with Biden wiping a tear from his eye, some humor punctuated it as well. When Quint mentioned that she was 86 years old, the president quipped, “In the Biden family, no woman is as old as any man.”

Quint was born in Poland in 1935 and deported at age six to a concentration camp, where she stayed with her father while disguised as a boy. Her mother and two older brothers were killed in Treblinka. She was later separated from her father and taken to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, where she was ultimately liberated by British soldiers. At the age of 10, she immigrated to the US, then made aliyah to Israel in 1984 with her husband and four adult children.

Cycowicz was born in 1927 in a town located in what was then Czechoslovakia, which later taken over by Hungary. After the Nazis invaded Hungary, she and her family were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where Cycowicz spent five months before being moved to a forced labor camp. She was liberated with her sister and cousin on May 8, 1945, and reunited with her eldest sister and mother. Cycowicz immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, and earned a PhD in psychology there, before making aliyah to Israel in her sixties.

A recording of Biden’s visit to Yad Vashem can be viewed below:

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