International Day of commemoration
in memory of the victims of the Holocaust
General Assembly Hall
10 February 2011
H.E. Ehud Barak
Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense
Thank you, Mr. Under-Secretary-General.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to turn to Hebrew, the language of prayers of both the Holocaust’s victims as well as its survivors.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, we recognize the sacrifices and the heroics of women in the Holocaust.
During the war, 70 years ago, under the skies of Europe, occurred the most horrific of all crimes the new age has seen. New technologies and organizational achievements were used to establish a death industry with the sole purpose of destroying human beings –– mother and child, young and old, men and women –– every last one of them –– just because they were Jews.
Within the Warsaw Ghetto there was hunger, cold, crowdedness, and infectious disease. Approximately 350 thousand Jews trying to survive hell while trying to maintain a community and the human spirit. Over and over, tens of thousands were rounded up to the Umschlagplatz Square and from there to Treblinka. At the beginning of 1943, from Stavky Street no. 9, Rashka and Shmuel Godin were helplessly dragged to the square and from there to their annihilation.
Their eldest daughter Elka was saved. She was already in Palestine –– the land of Israel –– with a one-year old child. That child is me.
Nearby, in Mila Street no. 18, the rage of the young members of the Zionist youth organizations grew.
Tzivia Lubatkin said, "When we gathered at the end of the Great Akzia, and from thousands of our friends (from the youth organizations) only hundreds were left, we were embarrassed to look at one another…we were ashamed that we were alive.”
That was the day that the seeds of uprising were sown, becoming the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in April of 1943. At the center of it were three young commanders: Mordechai Anilevitz, Antek Zuckerman, and Tzivia Lubatkin.
Using very few weapons, hand guns, and improvised hand grenades, the young women and men fought for three weeks against the Gestapo. Time and time again, the Germans retreated from the Ghetto, until they burned it down entirely.
Mordechai Anilevits was killed. Tzivia Lubatkin fought bravely beside her comrades, and from the burning Ghetto she led the remaining warriors through the sewage channel and out of the walls.
No. These young women and men could not have overcome the Gestapo. But their standing was a poignant statement of the value of freedom and human dignity and the triumph of the spirit over evil.
There is a direct line that stretches from their heroics to the establishment of the State of Israel.
After the Holocaust, Anteck and Tzivia came to the land of Israel, where they made a family and built a Kibbutz in the Galilee with their friends from the Ghetto.
50 years later, about 10 years ago, as Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, I attended the concluding ceremony of a pilot training course. Amongst the cadets I saw a young women marching in uniform. I asked what she was doing there and I was told that "she is a cadet in the fighter pilots course and flies on an F-16. She is an ‘ace’, one of the best of her class." I asked “where she is from and what is her name?” The answer came, "she is from a Kibbutz in the Galilee, Lohamei Hagetaot (Warriors of the Ghetto) and her name is Roni Zuckerman. She is going to be our first female fighter pilot in Israel.”
A chill went down my spine and does now again. Here in a nutshell is the story of Israel, from the Holocaust to rebirth. Like the Phoenix, out of the ashes.
Here I was, the grandson of the helpless Rashka and Shmuel from Stavky Street, standing as the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, an independent state –– strong, thriving, and peace-seeking. Before me stood Roni –– the granddaughter of Tzivia Lubatkin and Antek Zuckerman, warriors of the Ghetto –– returning from a flight, in her F-16, over the Kibbutz that was built as living monument to the warriors of the Ghettos and the victims.
Ladies and gentlemen,
On this day, when we remember the six million victims, let us also remember two lessons: first, "the Holocaust –– never again." And second –– an independent, strong, thriving, and peaceful State of Israel is the vengeance of the dead. It is also the comfort for those remaining alive. Thus, we have the foremost responsibility to protect and defend it for future generations.