Days of Remembrance, April 27 - May 4
Sallai Meridor, Ambassador to the United States from Israel
May 1, 2008, U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C.
Members of Congress, Administration officials, President of Israel’s Supreme Court, Leaders of the United States Holocaust memorial council, Colleagues, Friends, And above all, beyond any protocol, dear Holocaust survivors.
I am honored to stand here as the representative of the Jewish State and join you in commemorating the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and in paying tribute to those who saved the world from tyranny and who liberated the death camps from the Nazis.
As we assemble in this great Rotunda, we remember with love and reverence a man whose life symbolized both the horrific experience of the Holocaust and the triumph of the human spirit.
As the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress, Tom Lantos always took a stand for freedom and justice. His passing leaves an enormous void. We must continue his legacy.
This year, we mark 70 years since Kristallnacht. The night when 91 Jews were murdered and more than one thousand synagogues were destroyed. However, Kristallnacht was not the first sign of the horrific events to follow. Years before Kristallnacht, there were the burning of Jewish books in Berlin and the racist Nuremberg laws.
And just months before Kristallnacht, the world acquiesced in the Anschluss of Austria and entered into the infamous Munich Agreement.
For at least five years the writing was on the wall and people, chose not to read it.
Last week, I visited Yad Vashem. I stopped at a small exhibit, three panels on the wall, dedicated to the story of three death camps: Sobibor, where 250,000 Jews were murdered, Belzetz, were 500,000 perished and Treblinka, which claimed the lives of 870,000 Jews. According to the exhibit, no more than 20 to 40 Germans ran each camp with the support of some 100 locals. Standing there, I struggled with the question of how could 100 Nazis and 300 locals slaughter more than 1.6 million people over the period of one and a half years.
If there is a lesson here, is it not: that when we are indifferent, a murderous dictatorship can commit mass slaughter, oppress freedom and endanger the future of the world?
Though history does not repeat itself, neither can we desist from learning its lessons.
Today, once again, the world faces a dire threat emanating from an evil dictatorship that defies world order, undermines its neighbors, seeks regional hegemony, develops the means necessary for mass destruction, and at the same time demonizes the Jewish people and threatens to destroy its core.
Years from now, people will look back, upon us. The question will be, did we act in time to prevent this danger or did we, god forbid, fail yet again.
In this critical juncture in history, Israel, as always, stands with the United States.
The State of Israel, which arose from the ashes of the Holocaust, is probably the utmost expression of the victory of light over darkness.
At the very core of our being, more than anything else, is the determination that never again will the Jewish people come under the shadow of destruction.
As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the rebirth of the Jewish State, we express our deepest gratitude to the American people, for their steadfast friendship and staunch support.
With our shared spirit of hope, with our shared determination to fight evil and with our shared passion for freedom – we will prevail!