‘Let Us Draw Strength’: Polish and Israeli Leaders Commemorate 80th Anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
by Dion J. Pierre
Leaders from Poland and Israel commemorated the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Wednesday during a ceremony at the Monument of the Ghetto Heroes of Warsaw.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Polish President Andrzej Duda spoke at the event — just steps away from the POLIN Museum of Jewish History — with each calling on the world to remember the thousands of men and women who waged the largest act of Jewish resistance to Nazi persecution during World War II.
“I stand before you today and ask for forgiveness for the crimes committed by Germans here,” Steinmeier said. “Every crime that the Germans committed should have a place in our memory.”
Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, representing the World Jewish Congress (WJC), also spoke at the event.
“Everyone here today must use these brave young men and women as an inspiration when we face the kind of hatred we are seeing today throughout the world,” Ronald S. Lauder, former US Ambassador to Austria and current president of the World Jewish Congress said in an address given at the ceremony. “Hatred in the form of antisemitism. Hatred against all types of people. Let us draw strength from them, let us draw courage, and let us always remember their courage in the face of hatred. Fight back with whatever means.”
Israel and Poland recently upgraded their diplomatic relations after several years of tension caused by Poland’s efforts to minimize its role in the Holocaust and persecute historians who expose it. Per an agreement signed in March, according to Jewish News Syndicate, Poland will send an ambassador to Israel and resume field trips in which Israeli youth travel to Poland to visit concentration camps and World War II sites.
Some including, Professor Jan Grabowski of University of Ottawa, a historian of Polish-Jewish relations during the Nazi occupation, have publicly opposed the new agreement, arguing that it enables Holocaust deniers who, she said, “are unable to understand that, to some extent, their own nation took part in the genocide designed and carried out by the Germans.”
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem, also criticized the decision to resume student trips, explaining that sending Jewish youths to site such as the Museum of Cursed Soldiers, which honors anti-communist military leaders who killed Jews, will force them to commemorate antisemites.
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.