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Wednesday, April 30, 2008
President Shimon Peres's 30.4.08 Address at the Opening Ceremony of Holocaust Heroes' and Martyrs' Remembrance Day 2008, at Yad Vashem

PRESIDENT OF ISRAEL SPOKESPERSON'S OFFICE

Jerusalem, April 30th, 2008

THE OPENING CEREMONY OF HOLOCAUST MARTYRS' AND HEROES' REMEMBRANCE DAY 2008,
AT YAD VASHEM

ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES

63 years have passed since the end of the most destructive, bloody war
mankind has ever known - World War II.

Victory over Nazi Germany restored the values of the human race, and saved
Europe from sinking into an age of darkness and destruction.

The racist madness of Nazi Germany cost sixty million people their lives.
Six million Jews, a third of the entire Jewish people, were wiped out by
that satanic machine. They were annihilated simply because they were
Jewish. Their blood will never cease to cry out from the soil of Europe,
most of which was conquered by the Nazis.

I have been a believer all my life, but that doesn't help me to understand
what happened. To this day, I am unable to comprehend how young, educated
Germans could aim their rifles at a pregnant woman, shoot her in cold blood,
rip the hair off her head, pull out her teeth and then go away to eat and
rest, only to return and shoot a day-old baby. Nothing has the power to
drown out the cries of babies shot in cold blood.

Occasionally a madman makes his appearance. But how could it happen, I ask
myself, that an entire nation could elect a madman, prostrate itself before
his sadism and demagoguery, give him the title of "Chancellor", and shower
him with acclaim?
How does a nation not rise up at the sight of murderers rampaging through
its streets, the sight of army tanks moving forward relentlessly and
mercilessly, bent on destroying erstwhile neighbors and friends.

I find it hard to understand how other countries stood by, blinded and
paralyzed in the face of this viper. Some of them even signed agreements
with the Devil himself, joined his ranks and fought in his armies.

My heart trembles when I am reminded that Hitler could have developed
nuclear weapons too. A genocidal leader with weapons of mass-destruction -
what would have remained of our world then?

It is not easy for us to compose ourselves, and perhaps we shouldn't. The
passage of time does not necessarily calm us. The poet's words about truth
rising from the grave ring in my ears, and my heart vibrates with the memory
of six million brothers and sisters, buried in a graveyard the likes of
which have never been seen, nor will never be seen again. They live within
every one of us.

"What I have lost is mine forever", wrote Rachel.

I also ask myself what would have happened to the Jewish people if we would
have had the powerful country we have today in the time of Hitler. We could
have done things that others refrained from doing.

It's possible that we were late in establishing a state, and paid a heavy
price - for in history, one mustn't hesitate. But we did rise again, and
gathered in our people. We returned to our Homeland, we resurrected our
language, and we opened our gates to Holocaust survivors. We fended off
seven military attacks and two intifadas designed to defeat us. We also
signed two peace agreements. We began to tap the hidden potential we
discovered within ourselves. While the shadow of death still hovered, new
life started to take hold.

We established an army that knows how to win, and is capable of defending a
peace-seeking nation. We proved that our spirit was not broken. The
catastrophe of the Holocaust did not destroy our ability to establish a just
way of life. The Holocaust demanded a supreme effort on our part. Even
after our blood had been spilled, we succeeded in becoming first in the
world - in agriculture, medicine, and self-defense.

We will not forget, we will not cover up, and we will not stop asking
ourselves anew each morning, what we can do so that what happened will never
happen again. And we will remember - history has taught us to be vigilant.
We must cultivate both our spiritual and physical power. We have to
strengthen our position, with the power of justice and justifiable power. We
need to seek out friends in this world, and to demand that they keep their
eyes open and recognize imminent danger, rather than offer comfort after the
fact.

What is expected of us, we will bear on our shoulders. What is expected of
the world should be acted upon without delay. If the countries of the world
had not delayed, and would have identified the Nazi threat in time, they
could have prevented Hitler from murdering tens of millions of people. They
could have prevented war from breaking out.

We stand here today with tears in our eyes, and yet we will not immerse
ourselves in our tears. Only a strong country is entitled to mourn its
children. Only a nation that believes in itself can commemorate them in a
fitting manner.
Only a state with deterrence power, with an army worthy of its reputation,
bent on peace, can ensure that the memory of those who perished will never
be obliterated.

We shall pray together. We will say Kaddish in their memory. And we will
sound the notes of "Hatikvah" for the generations to come.

May their memory be blessed.

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