Ben Meed describes "the sacred task of Remembrance":
“The world must know us as the people we were before the destruction the Nazis unleashed.”
—Ben Meed, President, American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors
November 2, 2003
The Honorable Elie Wiesel, my distinguished colleagues, dear family and friends:
Momentous gatherings such as this weave together the threads of the past, present and future. We were together in the world of our youth, a world of shtetls and cities teeming with Jewish life and pulsating with Jewish culture. We were together throughout the years of destruction -- in ghettos and camps, on cattle trains and on death marches. We were abandoned by the world. The only ones concerned with our fate were our killers. So we held on to each other.
But, we have journeyed together from darkness to light, from slavery to freedom, and from death to rebirth. As we came to our new homelands, we needed to be together. Even in silence we understood each other as no one else could, for we understand an unspoken language filled with anguish, and hope.
But, we drew strength from one another. And here we are together again at this unforgettable reunion of our special family.
In 1981 at our first international gathering in Jerusalem, we came together with new family members. We greeted each other with renewed vitality and plans for the future. We pledged our commitment to our new homelands and to Israel – to its people as they strive for peace and security. The bond to our brothers and sisters is strong.
Holocaust Survivors are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the ability to rebuild shattered lives. We were alone, our families lost, and yet we chose life over hatred. We have traveled a long and difficult road to our new lives. In America, in Israel, and in nations all over the world we found freedom and restarted our lives with dignity. We achieved a great deal through tears and hard work, but we are especially proud of our children.
They are not just lawyers, doctors, scientists, and teachers. Many are leaders in their communities.
At the same time, we sustain our rich heritage, traditions of our old life. We preserve the special culture of Yiddishkeit. The world must know us as the people we were before the destruction the Nazis unleashed.
We must tell our story to be worthy of the memory of our six million martyrs who cannot speak for themselves. Some may ask why is Remembrance necessary? The answer is that only by committing ourselves to the sacred task of Remembrance can we fulfill the commandment given to us by our fallen brothers and sisters. Our testimonies will stand against the deniers and falsifiers who deny us our Kedoshim.
We share our trauma not to divide us, but to unite us. By keeping alive the memory of the past we can build a better future. We offer our memories to the world, not for ourselves. We offer our memories because the world still must listen. Anti-Semitic acts in Europe and the Islamic world give us great pain and sadly remind us that our work is far from over. The world still needs our voice. It still needs our lessons.
Over the decades, we gathered to give voice to those lessons in Jerusalem, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, and Houston, and many other places. Almost 20 years ago, we received the keys to the future U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was then just a dream.
We can now sense the achievements of our generation taking hold in this museum and in other institutions around the country.
Our collective presence reminds these institutions of their commitment to Remembrance. If they are to speak in our names, they must respect our experience, respect both its Jewishness and its universality.
We have come a long way from the ghettos and camps, from being ignored and cast aside. We have become guardians of moral lessons of the utmost importance. We know that evil has no limitations, neither time nor distance. If we are not prepared, if we are indifferent to the plight of others, humanity will suffer again.
Today we stand before humanity to bear witness at this sacred place. We stand with our children and their children to mark the 10th Anniversary of this Museum. This permanent living memorial to the Jewish uniqueness of the Holocaust will remain long after we have gone. It is our voice. It will continue to tell and retell our story. Remembrance will endure.