Speech by Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Yisrael Meir Lau at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum. Jerusalem, Israel

On the occassion of:The 5th World Holocaust Forum

President Rivlin! Prime Minister Netanyahu! President of the World Holocaust Forum Dr. Kantor! Leaders of the world! You are here gathered, leaders of the world, every one in his country; we have met last night, and I see you today and I thank you for your kind, and warm, and touching words you gave us in your speeches; your brotherhood, your friendship, your love and your commitment for the future we will never forget. We appreciate it very, very much and very-very deep. Survivors, brothers and sisters, survivors, people of Israel, leaders, morai verabotai, ladies and gentlemen!

25 years ago it was 50 years to the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the American army on April 11, 1945. I was invited to give a speech for the survivors who survived the camp and survived 50 years later. I came with my brother, late brother Naphtali, my hero, who saved my life. We came from Israel to Germany – Weimar is the city, Buchenwald is a suburb of Weimar. And I started my words with this comment:

“This is my second visit to Buchenwald. The first one was fifty and a half years earlier. And what is the change? When I came here for the first time, I was a child of seven and a half years. No father any more, no mother any more, but a brother. I came here – I had no name! I was just a number! Häftling Nummer eins-eins-sieben-null-drei-null! Prisoner 117030. Prisoner. Seven and a half years. What a crime did I do till then to be a prisoner? No name! No identity almost.

“Fifty years later, I come from my old new homeland, the State of Israel. I have a name. My name is Yisrael Meir Lau. I am not a prisoner any more. I am the Chief Rabbi of Israel today. What a change! With such a change from the first visit to the second one you would say, “OK, let’s forget it. Let’s open a new page, a new chapter, let’s forgive, let’s forget.” So I came especially to tell you: I cannot forgive, because I’m not authorized to forgive. My parents, before they went away, before they were taken away, they didn’t ask me to forgive. They asked me to continue the chain, so the Jewish chain will be unbroken! Unbroken, and forever! It’s what they said! I do remember my mother (I was already seven and a half almost), “Izek(?), remember that you are a Jew. Wherever you go, remember you are a part of a rabbinic chain. Your father, I don’t know what happened to him, two years that I didn’t hear from him, your father was the 37th generation of a rabbinic dynasty, you are the 38th, continue the chain! Go on!” These were the last words, she didn’t speak about forgiveness!

“What else do you ask me? To forget. Forget? How can I forget? How can I forget! The beatings, the freezings, the starvation. I do remember always also the stars in the very dark tunnel who went through five and a half years, the righteous among the nations. For some of them I owe my life. I do remember. But I do remember the sufferings, I do remember the tortures, I do remember the victims, and I can never forget. This is the reason I came from Israel to tell you.”

Now I want to tell you, dear friends here, in Yad Vashem, we appreciate very much your arrival. We appreciate very much your promise to fight antisemitism and racism. This is a promise, this is an obligation, this is a duty of mankind as whole(?), and this we will never forget, what you have said here today, and we appreciate every word you said to us, and we believe you, that you said it from bottom of your heart. We do believe. We do believe that this evening here in Yad Vashem in Yerushalayim can be a bridge for mankind as whole(?), not only around the Holocaust, but around survival of the world of mankind.

What do I mean? If you open the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, and you meet there what? That story of Noah’s ark. There was a flood, and Noah was said by the Lord Almighty, “Build an ark, and all the animals and your family, get in into the ark, you will be saved. You will survive the flood.” 150 days they were in the ark! Who was there? Snakes! Leopards! Tigers! Lions! Bears! And also animals like cows, and donkeys, and hens, and doves. One was hurt by the other? 150 days under the same roof! No one was beating, no one was hitting, no one was killing, no one was slaughtering, no one eats the other. 150 days! Snakes and children, grandchildren of Noah – no one was hurt! Why? They behaved very nice because they knew that they must behave very nice, because there is a common enemy outside of the ark: the flood. And if they will not behave nicely, Noah will send them out of the ark, and they are liquidated, they will disappear. So they understood, “We must live in friendship because we have a common hatred, a common enemy.”

People! Leaders of the world! Our guest leaders! Don’t we have today common, common enemies? Don’t we have a reason to understand what the snake understood in the ark of Noah? Can’t we understand that there are common enemies? All kinds of diseases, the cancer, the AIDS, whatever, heart, brain; starvation, the ignorance, crime, nuclear weapon! Common enemies! So let’s behave like friends, let’s understand at least what the animals understood, 150 days, that this helps(?). Let’s understand that this can come here, it can come from Yad Vashem, it can come from Yerushalayim, as the prophet Isaiah, the prophet Micah said in the same words, “Ki mitzion tetze torah, udvar Hashem mirushalayim”: the voice of the Lord Almighty comes and is spread all over the world, it came from Jerusalem. A city of four thousand years’ history. We can never forget, we have to forgive to brothers, and we have to behave like friends and brothers. That’s our duty, and this is the conclusion of seeing you.

Leaders of the world! The world is in your arms, in your hands. In one small way, one sentence, one signature you can decide upon millions of people! So, decide for love, and friendship, and peace forever! Thank you.