Dozens of Knesset MKs traveled to Poland Monday, to tour Auschwitz and participate in a special ceremony commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The MKs were joined by over 50 members of the Polish parliament; several Israeli and Polish government ministers; and Holocaust survivors.
At the ceremony, several MKs spoke about their personal connections to the Holocaust. "Today I closed my eyes and saw you, Annette, my aunt who was 20 years old when you were captured while trying to escape from the Nazi occupation of France and transported here in a cattle car," Chairman of the Opposition Yitzhak Herzog (Labor) said. "It is an unimaginable nightmare. Thousands were with you; in there furnaces you were lead to death. My eyes closed and for a moment I was marching there with you - fathers and sons, daughters and mothers," he added.
Holocaust survivor Noah Kliger recalled his horrifying experiences during a death march, when Nazis marched them to Auschwitz as the Soviet Union's Red Army was approaching. "When the Red Army came, we were on a death march," Kliger recounted. "The Germans retreated before the onslaught of the Red Army and took with them 57,000 of the last survivors of Auschwitz, to employ them in the camps. They were in trucks and vehicles and we had to walk at a rate that none of us could keep up with. Those who could not keep up were shot.
"Today, 69 years after leaving this hell called Auschwitz we are here as citizens who are proud of the new state that was established on the ruins of European Jewry," Kliger added. "[It is a] strong state, a democratic state, a liberal and developed state."
Kliger then made the traditional blessing over new experiences: "Blessed Are You. . .who has allowed me to live and exist and experience this [special] time."
The Director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr Cywinski, spoke about the visit in terms of historical perspectives. "When we look at people's faces from 70 years ago, we sadly realize they were not long for world, as 400,000 people died within 3 months," Cywinski explained. "In summer 1944, 67,000 Jews were transported here from Lodz; later, 4 shipments of people would be brought here from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising."
"Next year we note 70 years since the victims of this place were liberated," he continued. "We ensure that survivors of this hell, their human testimony, will be remembered - thanks to those who are not indifferent to our future."
MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu) thanked Cywinski, then spoke on Israel's behalf at the ceremony. "We stand at the gate of hell on earth," Levin said. "The visit by a delegation of the parliament of an independent and strong Jewish state, together with survivors who were here, symbolizes Israel's total commitment to the protection of the Jewish people.
"The Holocaust will never be forgotten and its lessons will continue to be studied for generations to come," Levin vowed.