'Listen to the survivors and remember their names'

Education Minister Bennett speaks at March of the Living, urges parents to ensure their children meet survivors, learn their stories.

Contact Editor
Naftali Bennett,

Bennett in Poland
Bennett in Poland
Yoni Kempinski

Speaking on Monday at the March of the Living, Education Minister Naftali Bennett spoke of the importance of ensuring that the Holocaust does not become forgotten, distorted or erased.

In his speech, Bennett said:

"'Song, a Psalm of Asaph. O God, keep not Thou silence; hold not Thy peace, and be not still, O God.' (Psalms, 83:1-2)

"These verses of Psalms, written thousands of years ago, demand that G-d not be silent in the face of those trying to kill His people.

"And, standing here, on the blood-soaked ground of Auschwitz, the silence is deafening.

"If this place could talk, it would tell of the greatest tragedy and the worst crimes in human history:

"The train tracks would share prayers of Hungarian, Polish, Italian and Greek Jews transported like cattle to their deaths.

"The barracks would recall the last words and tears of Sarah, Dov-Ber, and Esther.

"The fences would remind us of those who tried to run and failed.

"The watchtowers would testify that soldiers with names and faces watched the misery of millions and made it possible.

"And the crematorium.

"The crematorium would describe the unthinkable horrors committed by mankind; the industrial murder machine-built by the Nazis; the last breaths of mothers and babies, grandparents and siblings.

"But the chimneys would be silent, as no words can describe the burning of innocent people in an attempt to erase their very existence from our collective memory.

"These heinous, unthinkable crimes had very real results.

"The sounds of Torah study – ended.

"Homes filled with music – were silenced.

"Communities that once flourished – were destroyed.

"But the remains of Auschwitz, Birkenau, Majdanik, Sobibor, Belzec and Treblinca are scattered and silent. Little remains of the Ghettos of Lodz, Vienna, Slonim, Minsk, Prague or Paris.

"So we gather information from the diaries of the deceased, from books of historians and from the testimonies of those who survived.

"However, those survivors are slowly passing away, taking their personal stories and testimonies with them.

"It is only a matter of time before the last survivor, the last witness, passes away.

"In 2017 it is less likely a child will hear a survivor tell his story than it was in 1950 or 1990.

"I want to urge you, participants from around the world, talk to the survivors here today. Listen to them. Remember their names and stories and faces.

"Sadly, there are people attempting to rewrite history and alter the facts.

"Some deny the Holocaust happened; others try to scale it down. They continue where the Nazis failed: they make it as though millions of Jews with parents, friends, wishes and fears never existed.

"But they are wrong, they are evil, and they will fail.

"So I urge you – talk to the survivors, so one day you can tell your grandchildren, 'I was at Auschwitz with a survivor of the Holocaust.'

That is our responsibility. That is our mission.

"I am here as a representative of my family. My grandmother Michela and grandfather Yisrael-Irvin Lefko lost their families in the gas chambers.

"My wife Gilat's grandfather Elie - as a teenager with a non-Jewish appearance – protected and fed his mother and brother in the forest, until they were murdered by local Poles only weeks before liberation. And Gilat's grandmother, Clara, hid as a Christian girl and was the sole survivor of her family.

"Our children our named after them.

"And this piece of embroidered fabric, made by mother's cousin Tzlia, hangs in my office. It was in the last letter sent to my grandmother from her sister in Poland before she and her family were murdered.

"I am here as a proud Jew.

"I am here as a representative of the Israeli government.

"Today, the Jewish State is an Iron Dome that will always defend Jews.

"I stand before you today and promise: never again will Jews be defenseless.

"And I am here as Minister of Education, joined by ministers from across Europe.

"Together, we will ensure the stories of the murdered and the miracles of the survivors live on so one thousand years from now, we will not forget.

"The crimes committed by the Nazis and their helpers against the Jews were the greatest tragedy in human history.

"It is our mission to educate those who will never meet a survivor.

"It is our mission to tell the stories the tracks and chimneys cannot tell.

"This is not only an Israeli mission.

"This is not only a Jewish mission.

"This is a universal mission.

"In the words of Eli Wiesel, who made himself a voice for those who could not speak, 'To forget is to kill twice.'

:I promise: we will never forget.

"'And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.' (Samuel 1, 15:29)

"I promise, we will never forget.

The nation of Israel lives on."