International Day of commemoration
in memory of the victims of the Holocaust
Memorial Ceremony and Concert
General Assembly Hall
27 January 2010
H.E. Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, Minister of Information and Diaspora, Israel
It is a great honour to stand before you today on behalf of the State of Israel. It is equally humbling to attempt to represent my people, my country, and also my parents, who themselves were Holocaust survivors.
The words “Never Again” are carved in granite at Holocaust memorials around the world. If we are to take this phrase seriously, if we hope to leave hatred and bigotry behind us, then we must take a moment, on a day like today, to pause and reflect on what went wrong. What allowed the German people and the people of Central Europe to release this monster? To incite and carry out a policy of genocide, the likes of which mankind may never forget.
The Holocaust did not begin with concentration camps. It began with a brick thrown through the window of a Jewish business, the desecration of a Synagogue, words of hate spewed on the street. Hitler was able to carry out his plans because too many good men decided to turn their heads, to look the other way, to distance themselves from the pain and suffering of their neighbors.
Holocaust survivor and noble laureate Elie Wiesel identifies one character trait as the root cause which allowed the Holocaust to occur: indifference.
For only in a state of indifference are “light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil confused.
Indifference allows you to look away from victims. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person's pain and despair. For the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbors are of no consequence”.
The world today is too small, the stakes are too high. We can no longer afford to be indifferent. A wrong committed anywhere will soon find its way back and impact your people, country, or neighborhood. Our shared humanity cannot be denied. We cannot be indifferent today, or ever again.
After the Holocaust, the number six million has come to symbolize death and destruction, but for the Jewish people, the number six million has taken on new meaning.
Today, the State of Israel is home to six million Jews. But the six million Jews who call Israel home have now again been targeted for destruction. They live under a direct threat – a regional power is creating the ability to wipe Israel of the face of the earth, and is vowing to do just that, bragging that they intend to finish off what the Nazis started.
Mr. Chairman, do not let the world sit idly by. The world is too small; the consequences will be too great. And this time around, the Jews will not be bystanders to their own fate – and be led by Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah or any other to their death.
We must honor the memory of the six million murdered. We must act so that their deaths will not have been in vain. We must understand how the world could stand idly by while they were rounded up and killed.
In 1939 there was no Jewish State, there was no Jewish Army. Jewish life, my parents´ lives, held no value.
Today, there is a Jewish State, there is a Jewish Army, and the State of Israel will do everything in her power to protect Jewish life. We will defend our most basic human right, the right to life, with tooth and nail. In order to prevent such horrors from repeating themselves, Israel must be able to defend herself, for her own sake, and for the sake of the free world.
Anti-Semitism must no longer be a factor in foreign policy. The State of Israel and her political sovereignty must be recognized. The community of nations must support Israel in her fight against terrorism. The Jewish people have a right to self-defense.
We sit today in a skyscraper in New York City. Nine years ago, you would have never thought of New York City as standing on the front lines in a battle with Islamic extremism. But what for so long was seen as a threat only to the Jews, has taken lives in New York, London, Bali, Bombay, and Madrid. What began as a threat to the Jewish people is now a serious threat to mankind.
I will close with the words of German Pastor Martin Niemoeller. In the 1930s, Niemoeller was a member of the Nazi party. In the 1940s, he was sent to a concentration camp for his opposition to Hitler’s regime.
“They came first for the Communists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left to speak up”.
I urge you now to stand up for humanity, to stand up for morality. Stand up now, so that someone is there to stand up for you.