Earlier today in Israel, at the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, world leaders gathered to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschweitz-Birkenau on January 27, 1945.
The event was formally called the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, convened by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Speaking at the Jan. 23 ceremony held at Yad Vashem were the leaders of the four Allied powers — US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin (Russia is accepted internationally as the successor state to the USSR), Britain’s Prince Charles and French President Emmanuel Macron — as well as Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
While this week’s IJN does include some pre-coverage of the event, it will have to wait until next Friday’s IJN to include coverage of the actual event. In the meantime, you can watch the full service here, courtesy of Yad Vashem.
Some highlights, for those unable to watch the full four-hour program:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister:
“For the Jewish people, Auschwitz is more than the ultimate symbol of evil. It is also the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness. It is the culmination of what can happen when our people have no voice, no land, no shield.
“The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust: to take, always to take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction; to confront threats when they are small; and above all, even though we deeply, deeply appreciate the great support of our friends, to always have the power to defend ourselves by ourselves. We have learned that Israel must always remain the master of its fate.”
Mike Pence, US vice president:
“One cannot visit Auschwitz without becoming over with emotion and grief.
“One cannot see the piles of shoes, the gas chambers, the crematoriums, the lone box car facing the gates of the camp…without asking, ‘How could they?’
“Today, we remember what happens when the powerless cry for help and the powerful refuse to answer.”
Charles, Prince of Wales:
“My grandmother, who is buried on the mount of Olives, has a tree plated here at Yad Vashem and is counted as one of the Righteous Among the Nations, a fact that gives me and my family immense pride.”
The prince peppered his talk with Hebrew phrases such as Chasdei Umot Haolem (Righteous Among the Nations), Betzelem Elokim (in the image of G-d), and K’Olam Male (a complete world).
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German president:
“I wish I could say that we Germans have learnt from history once and for all, but I cannot say that when hatred is spreading, I cannot say that when anti-Semitism is hidden in criticism of Israeli policy and I cannot say that when only a thick wooden door prevents a right-wing terrorist from carrying out a massacre on Yom Kippur.”
He concluded his remarks with a recitation of the Shehechiyanu blessing, recited at special occasions.
While Russian President Vladimir Putin mourned “all the victims of the Nazis, including six million Jews,” he also pointed out that the death camps were “not just operated by Nazis, but by their henchmen in various countries,” in an apparent swipe at Poland and other eastern European nations. Putin also emphasized the outsized role of the Red Army, calling its 27 million killed the “price of victory.” He also claimed that 40% of the Jewish Holocaust victims were Soviet citizens, a figure disputed by historians.