to the International Youth Congress
on International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Yad Vashem, 28 January 2008
Mr. Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate,
H E István Hiller, Hungarian Minister of Education and Culture,
H.E. Henri Etoundi Essomba, Ambassador of Cameroon and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Youth who are with us here today,
To be a Jew is to dream the Shoah, live the Shoah, and die in the Shoah without actually having been there.
To be a Jew is to try to imagine the horror, to stop as the most painful images engulf you, and to know that you are still so far from the pain endured by those who were there.
To be a Jew is wanting to ask the elderly if they were there, and what they went through, and yet fearing to do so.
To be a Jewish mother is to understand, with the birth of a second child, how impossible, how inhuman it would be to have to choose between her two children.
To be a Jewish mother is to look at your children and wonder if they are old enough to care for themselves without you.
To be a Jewish mother is to look at your children and to ask yourself whether the right choice would be to keep them with you or to tell them to leap off the train.
To be an Israeli is to know that you were reborn from the ashes of the victims and that you have a responsibility to the generations to come.
To be an Israeli child is to try to fathom the number six million but never being able to.
To be an Israeli is to live on streets named after entire communities that were wiped out because there are not enough streets to name after each one of the victims.
To be an Israeli is to live in a country that appears strong from the outside but is always aware of the vulnerability of its people.
To be an Israeli girl is to receive, as a Bat Mitzvah gift, the book of poems "There Are No Butterflies Here", written by children of the Theresiendstadt Ghetto, and to understand that these children were just like you, and all they wanted was to play, to live and to love.
To be an Israeli teenager is to visit the death camps in Europe, to see the scratch marks on the walls of the gas chambers of those who tried to get out, to see the "showers", the piles of shoes and hair, and never look in they same way again at things that are taken for granted by teenagers in other places.
To be an Israeli mother is to suddenly discover that you have passed on to your children the collective memory and experience of the Holocaust. It is to understand that although you wanted to spare your children the pain so that they would not have to bear the burden that you have carried all your life, as a daughter of the Jewish people you felt the need to pass on this memory so that they and their children and their children's children would remember. And it is to realize that the national cause has overcome your motherly feeling.
To be a Jewish leader in Israel is to ask yourself whether you would have seen the writing on the wall had you been there, and whether you would have made the right decisions at the time.
And it is, above all, to pledge never to forget.
There are feelings and experiences which are failed by words the bigger the horror the more difficult it is to pass on the memory of the Holocaust to future generations.
I would like each of you to study the pictures here at Yad Vashem even if you are unable to pass on the magnitude of what you see, I would like to ask you to take only one memory with you, whether a picture of a living skẻleton, or of a pile of human bones, or that of a child, and to pass this image on.
One picture is a world. Each of these pictures screams out the horrors of the Holocaust and holds lives and dreams that vanished.
The terror, humiliation, helplessness, yearning for family, waiting for salvation from those who could do nothing to help - All these you should pass on to others, not to cause them pain, but rather to prevent these images from ever becoming a reality again. As soon as people will cease to think that such crimes are possible, and then they will cease to act to prevent them from returning.
Beyond remembrance of those who died, we are faced with an obligation to the future. This obligation rests on the shoulders of leaders, and on the shoulders of every citizen of the free world.
Horrors of such magnitude are the outset the product of a distorted mind of the leader but they are also the product of the Evil in uniform who agreed to execute, and of society that remained silent.
Anyone who has seen the pictures at Yad Vashem, beginning with people perishing in the Ghettos, understands that the writing was on the wall, and there were those who stood by and photographed.
The obligation to identify, to combat and protest against such phenomena is the responsibility of everyone. Decision makers, teachers and citizens whose ability to voice their protest depends on the understanding that his voice will not die, but will be joined by many others.
As of today, you are all part of the voice which gives substance to the words and the promise of: Never again.