IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz spoke at a memorial ceremony in Berlin Friday for the Jews who passed through the infamous Platform 17, as part of a working visit to Germany on behalf of the German Chief of Staff. Platform 17 was one of Berlin's major deportation sites for Jews sent to concentration camps from 1941 to 1945.
The ceremony was held in the presence of prominent German Army official, Marcus Kniepp; the current Israeli Ambassador to Berlin, Yaakov Hadas-Handelman; and embassy staff and German leaders in Berlin. At the ceremony, the German Chief of Staff commemorated the victims of the Holocaust, and also welcomed Gantz on his visit to the state.
Gantz stated, "This train station was yet another stop on the journey to systematically murder and consume us. The ghost platform on which we stand saw many Jews sent to the last stop of their lives," he said. "It has been some 68 years since the last Jew was sent to their death from Platform 17. Since then we have stopped the killing machine - we have exposed the painful truth about the cruel journey of the victims of the Holocaust, including those sent from the platform. Since then, these last victims have been accelerating the pace of the Jewish people, pursuing us to move more forcefully" against anti-Semitism.
"Our presence here today, with our head held high in the presence of this memorial to the Jewish people is a testament to our victory. It is a testament to those who died and those who survived the Holocaust, to the courage of the founders of the State of Israel, and to the determination of its builders and defenders."
Gantz also noted his personal connection to the platform and its victims. "I am the son of Malka Weiss, of blessed memory, who survived the horrors of the Holocaust by the skin of her teeth, and of Nahum Ganz, of blessed memory, who survived the war, immigrated to Israel, joined the Palmach, and who was one of the country's founders," he said. "I am excited to stand here. I am proud to stand here."
"Today, we still face the threats of countries and organizations who wish to harm us, but with one major difference: we are more powerful and more determined than ever before. And in the face of the Platform 17, in the face of the number of dead carved into flesh and stone, we respond with 65 years of life - 65 years of independence - of vitality, determination [. . .] 65 years of a modern and democratic society. 65 years of victory. 65 years of rebirth."
"65 years of men and women defending Israel in IDF uniform, thousands of young people who see Israel as their home, who love their country and are ready to give their lives in defense of its citizens. While we cannot return to the past [. . .] we will never again allow ourselves to be helpless in the face of our enemies," Gantz stated. "The IDF is the response to the Jewish people to crematoria, to gas chambers and death pits."
Gantz's speech follows a decline in international support for Israel's position regarding the threat of a nuclear Iran, as well as a recent bout of international pressure to acquiesce to demands of the Palestinian Arabs to sacrifice Israeli security in favor of a two-state solution. Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry made veiled threats of a third intifada, after pledging another $75 million to the Palestinian Authority, and after confirming that the US views the building of more Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as "illegitimate."