International Day of Commemoration
for Victims of the Holocaust
Memorial Ceremony, General Assembly Hall
25 January 2013
H.E. Mr. Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations
Thank you, Mr. Under-Secretary General.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We gather here today on erev Shabbat, the eve of the holy Sabbath. In just a few hours, Jews will gather in synagogues around the world and recite:
"May God give strength to His people, and bless His people with peace."
Jews have recited this prayer for thousands of years – in times of joy and times of tragedy. They said it in the court of King David. They said it in the study halls of Babylonia. They said it in the face of crusades and inquisitions.
And ladies and gentleman, they said it in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Treblinka.
Today we remember the prayers spoken with hushed tones in death camps and on death marches. We bear witness to the six million Jews who were murdered. Six million men, women, and children. The loss is unimaginable. We will never know the contributions that they would have made to our world. We will never know the riches of the mind lost to us by the destruction of Einstein’s Berlin or Kafka’s Prague.
While the lives of so many were taken, their spirit lives on – their dreams have never died.
Today, on behalf of the six million, we say loudly and clearly: nothing—nothing—can break the 5,000 year-old chain of Jewish history.
I, Ron Prosor, stand before you tall and proud as a representative of the world's one and only Jewish state – the son of Uri Prosor, who fled Nazi Germany when a Jewish state was still a dream – the father of Lior, Tomer, and Oren Prosor, for whom that state is a vivid reality.
Younger generations can barely imagine a world without a Jewish state. They can barely comprehend what it was to be a Jew at the mercy of an indifferent world, a people left to face the Nazi horrors alone.
Most stood idle in the midst of that evil. But there were exceptions – brave men and women, righteous among the nations, who risked their lives to save others. During this sacred week of Holocaust commemoration, we remember the sparks of light that flickered in this dark period of human history.
We remember Raoul Wallenberg, who rescued 100,000 Hungarian Jews and said that he could not return home until he had rescued thousands more.
We remember Lorenzo, the rescuer of the Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi, who reminded Levi "that there still existed a just world outside our own, something and someone still pure and whole… for which it was worth surviving."
We remember Chiune Sugihara, a brave Japanese diplomat who defied his government’s orders and issued visas for more than 6,000 Jews in Lithuania. An estimated 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man.
Go out into the hall here, to the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous exhibit. You will see similar stories of courage and compassion – from schoolchildren who convinced their neighbors to hide Jews in their attics, to border guards who brought tens of thousands of Jewish refugees to safety.
These inspiring stories must become guideposts for the international community. They remind us that the responsibility to act is universal. It extends to each and every one of us.
And ladies and gentlemen, there is much work to do.
We live in a world filled with prejudice and violence. A world in which anti-Semitism is sponsored, taught and spread by governments, clerics, and schoolteachers.
A world where evil is too often met with indifference – where hate is met with silence.
Every year, from this very podium, the Iranian president denies the Holocaust while threatening to carry out another one. Every day, Hamas teaches anti-Semitism to the next generation of children in Gaza, telling them that the Holocaust is "a lie made up by the Zionists." Similar messages echo across the Arab world.
Our duty has never been clearer. The hands of time threaten to cloud the world’s memory. It is our responsibility to rescue the history and lessons of the Holocaust – just as the men and women that we honor today rescued its victims. It is on us to teach the values of tolerance – to educate our children so that they live together as one human family.
Together, we must safeguard the memory of the past to protect our common future. We must recognize what we stand against to truly know what we stand for. We must back slogans with action, if we want to say the words “Never Again” and know that they have meaning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This week's reading in the Torah – Judaism’s holiest book – tells the story of the exodus from Egypt. It describes how the Jewish people marched from oppression to freedom, from darkness to light.
Two years ago, with 10,000 Jews from around the world, I attended March for the Living – whose Vice Chairman, Shlomo Grofman, is here with us today. With Israeli flags on our backs, we marched in solemn memory of those we lost; in defiance of the perpetrators and as a living testament to the triumph of humanity in the face of evil.
The experience reminded me that the Jewish people are a nation of survivors. The State of Israel is a living, breathing monument of survival.
And from the hills of Jerusalem, to the camps of Treblinka, to the halls of the United Nations, we say—as we have said for hundred generations before us, and our children will say long after us—Am Yisrael Chai.
The people of Israel will live.