Ambassadors and other representatives of more than 50 countries attend the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust event hosted by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, on Thursday, Jan. 26.
“This day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is fraught with significance,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We fulfill at once our obligation never to forget because every victim had a story, a family, a childhood, a future cut short.”
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is Jan. 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“Our mission and message are now more crucial than ever,” said Iael Nidam Orvieto, the director of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research. “Today, destructive evil, including vicious anti-Semitism, reappears in various contexts and ideologies. These ideologies deny human rights and dignity. Many of their supporters target Jews and Israel as the particular objects of their hatred. Together with partners and associates worldwide, Yad Vashem teaches researchers and educators — thousands yearly, from dozens of nations, including nations represented here today — to draw contemporary insights from the annals of the Shoah.”
Orvieto presented a diary kept by Ruth Kalka, who fled the ghetto in Czestochowa, Poland, with her husband, Mayer, after their extended families were deported to Treblinka. They hid from the Nazis for two years until liberation in 1945.
Her diary, a small notebook encased in metal, consists largely of names, dates and key events during the war.
The Kalkas immigrated to Israel in 1949, and their children recently donated the diary to Yad Vashem during the Gathering the Fragments campaign, which seeks Holocaust-era artifacts, documents and photographs held by private citizens to preserve them for posterity.
The following are Netanyahu’s full remarks:
This is an international day and there are representatives here from many countries, from around the world.
This day of commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is fraught with significance. We fulfill at once our obligation never to forget because every victim had a story, a family, a childhood, a future cut short. And as you go in these halls, in Yad Vashem, you see these individuals’ stories, and this is made more poignant and more heart-wrenching by just thinking about each single person, or a single person, then thinking about the multiplication of the horror.
In a few short years, 6 million of our people were wiped away, literally incinerated. And the forces of evil had built an industry of mass murder.
So as we remember the victims and this crime, we must never forget the roots of our greatest disaster: the insatiable hatred for the Jewish people. This hatred culminated in murder, but it began with intolerance.
The Holocaust, thank G-d, is behind us, but the hatred and intolerance that drove it is not.
Anti-Semitism, which is the world’s oldest hatred, is experiencing a revival in the enlightened West. You can see this in European capitals — just unbelievable, the rise of anti-Semitism, the resurgence of anti-Semitism that is happening, and few would have imagined that this would be possible a few years ago.
It’s true that governments have shown responsibility and on the whole have taken this up, in Eastern Europe and in Western Europe alike. But it is also true that this hatred is bubbling, coming out of these cracks, coming out in the open again.
Yet, as disturbing as this is, the greatest danger that we face, of the hatred for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, comes from the east. It comes from Iran. It comes from the ayatollah regime that is fanning these flames and calling outright for the destruction of the Jewish state.
I want you to think about a regime that openly declared its intention to eliminate every black person, every gay person, every European. I think the entire world would be outraged, and rightly so.
But when a regime merely calls to wipe out every Israeli — which is what they say, day in, day out, their most prominent leaders, they say it — what do we encounter? A deafening silence.
Now that may change. I hope it will change. I believe it will change. Because I spoke a few days ago to President Trump, and he spoke about the Iranian aggression. He spoke about Iran’s commitment to destroy Israel. He spoke about the nature of this nuclear agreement and the danger it poses. We spoke about it together.
I’m talking now not only in political terms. I’m talking about every person in the world, any person of conscience who’d speak out about the resurgence of the same attitude that decades ago openly said, “We’re out to destroy the Jewish people,” and today the same attitude that says, “We’re out to destroy the Jewish people of Israel” or “We’re out to destroy the Jewish state.” It must encounter forceful, consistent, powerful resistance, in words and also in deeds.
As prime minister of Israel, I will not be silent. I haven’t been silent, and we don’t intend to be inactive either.
We don’t merely intend to speak out, but we will take all the measures we need to defend ourselves, and we will take all the measures necessary to prevent Iran from getting the means of mass murder to carry out their horrible plans.
We cannot and will not be silent in the face of Iran’s stated aim of destroying Israel.
But we also know that the issue is not merely the Jewish state or the Jewish people. Because we’ve seen that this hatred, when it goes unchecked, spreads around the world, and, in fact, in many ways, that is what is happening.
So it’s up to the forces of civilization, the forces of conscience, the forces of responsibility, to join together to stop this process.
The regime that spawned the Holocaust ended up in the dustbin of history. That’s a lesson for Iran. It’s a lesson to every enemy of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
We will never forget the victims. We will never allow another Holocaust to take place.
I take comfort in a lot of foreign leaders who have come to this place, to Yad Vashem. We go through the halls. We see the exhibits. They’re visibly shaken. And when we come out, I say to that leader or whoever it would be, I say, “You know, as prime minister of Israel, I have one job: to make sure that we will never need more institutions like Yad Vashem.” And that’s what we all have to be committed for.
Thank you for your help and your participation in this noble and indispensable effort. Thank you all.