Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I will change my speech today because of the hour and because many of us want today to go out to Auschwitz –Birkenau as soon as possible. I listened today to rabbi Lau. Rabbi Lau himself is a very powerful speaker. But he combines that with his memories of what it was. One realizes how powerful these living memories are. And one realizes that there will only be, unfortunately, a few more short years. That these leaving memories will become memories.
Auschwitz –Birkenau. All of us remember the first time we went there. When we see pictures, pictures do not convey what we felt the first time we went there and the shock and the horror. I remember myself. It was 1986. I came there with my wife and my three children. We left stunned, my children will never forget it. And I must say that the thing I remember most was seeing the examples of hair, and limbs and eye-glasses, and suitcases with people’s names on them.
During the following four years I came to Auschwitz another four or five times. With different groups in different times. And what I noticed was each time there was less hair, the various pieces of leather were disintegrating, the barbed wire was disappearing, the cement stations that held the barbed wire were falling down. And I realized that that great someday would people come there they would not be seeing the actual hair, the actual articles, but they will be seeing these pictures. And just like pictures do not convey what Auschwitz is about, pictures of hair do not convey what seeing the real thing is.
I came back to New York and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and there we found experts on preservation. These experts worked for the next four years at Auschwitz, many of them spending three to six months at a time there working. During the last 20 years because of these experts the human hair has been made so that it will not decompose any more, and leather is not decomposing, and the eye-glasses and various items. So our future generations who come there will not be seeing the picture, will be seeing the real thing. They will understand the horror of what went on.
I feel that every person who can, every schoolchild not only in Poland but around the world should have a chance to see what happened, because the effect it has is very-very strong. President Kantor speaks about a University of Tolerance. The strongest thing for a University is to see the chaos of Auschwitz. Again I must say that today when I go there I will once again feel the horror, but once again feel that the human race has succeeded.
I would not be correct without ending speaking about another horror that I believe is coming to our world and that can be avoided. I’m talking about what is happening today in Iran. We have a man who denies the Holocaust, we have a man who talks about the destruction of Israel. We have a man who does not have anything but great contempt for Jews. And once again people are talking about these words, Hitler had the same words and people did not take it seriously. We must take seriously what is happening with president Ahmadinejad. We must take seriously his threats. Unless we do we have a great deal of problems ahead. The European Union is a great force against that. I only pray that with the rest of the free world they continue to fight against this tyrant.
I thank you and I thank the European Jewish Congress and Yad Vashem and the various groups who made this day possible, because we cannot forget. Thank you.