Consul General Ofer Bavly
April 11, 2010
Dear survivors, Rabbis, Leaders of the Jewish Federation, Mr. Braman, friends,
We are here, once again, to remember that most heinous crime against the Jewish people and indeed, against humanity itself. The Shoah will forever be remembered as the pinnacle of human cruelty, the most extreme example of how far man will go to exterminate his own species. It is proof that along with its ability to show kindness and compassion, humankind is also the most evil of all life forms on earth.
As we reflect on the meaning of the Holocaust, there are three lessons that we have learned.
The first lesson is that we must remember in order not to repeat history. By gathering, here and elsewhere, with the survivors, with their children and grandchildren, we must make sure that every subsequent generation, in every country on earth, is taught the history of the Holocaust, so that history will never repeat itself. The lessons of the Holocaust must be an integral part of every school system’s syllabus, must be taught to every child as a universal lesson about mankind and how far humans will go when incited by hatred and racism.
The second lesson is that we must remain moral above all else. As one Israeli journalist noted this week, the Holocaust shifted morality from the national level, from the collective, to the individual. The Holocaust taught us not to rely on nations doing the moral thing; we must make sure that the individual does the right thing, because only he is capable of standing up to the evil of his fellow man. Every man and woman, every individual, knows the difference between good and bad. It is therefore the responsibility of every individual to stop evil and to make sure that it does not take place. During the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War, the Nazi leaders and their officers claimed that they were only following orders, only acting according to the moral standards that were common in their country and in that time. That excuse did not absolve them from guilt. The Nuremberg judges found them guilty of not having exercised their individual morality and not standing up to the obviously demonic orders of the Nazi regime.
The third lesson we take from the Holocaust is that we, the Jewish people, must do absolutely everything in our power in order to survive. We must do everything, because no-one else will do it in our place. We must rely on ourselves because the Holocaust taught us not to rely on others. When it came to defending the Jews, very few righteous individuals were found in the world. Very few countries were there to lend a hand. Most countries shamefully pushed away the Jews, turned them back to the furnaces and the gas chambers. Even the United States turned away the St. Louis, a ship carrying survivors, and sent them back to Europe where most of them were later massacred.
The Jewish people must never rely on the kindness of others. We must never trust that nations and people will do what is moral. We must be ready to do what is necessary in order to ensure that our people will never again have to go through another Holocaust.
The Jewish people established a homeland that would be the safe haven for every Jew, the one place on earth where we will never be afraid to practice our religion. The Israeli people built an army that is there to defend every Jew, every Israeli – because in the words of the wise – אם אין אני לי – מי לי – if I am not for myself, who is for me? If the Jewish people and the people of Israel do not defend themselves, then make no mistakes about it: nobody will defend us.
Consider these lessons when you read about Iran’s latest nuclear breakthrough, announced this week. Here is a nation with a leadership that is openly calling for the extermination of the Jewish people. Their leader repeatedly denies the Shoah, while preaching for a future Holocaust of the Jews. And while he does so, he is accelerating a nuclear program and the development of missiles to back up his desire to wipe every Jew off the map of the earth. Let us take his threats seriously. The Jews who thought that Hitler was bluffing now fill the cemeteries of Europe. We must remember the past so that it does not repeat itself. We must preserve our morality and stand up to this evil – each and every one of us. And we must be prepared to defend ourselves, no matter what it takes, because when the chips are down, nobody will defend the Jewish people except for the Jewish people itself, and the State of Israel.