Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, formerly Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel and now Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and a Holocaust survivor, addressed on Monday the participants of the annual March of the Living.

“Today, the 28th of Nissan, is my birthday,” he said. “I wasn’t born on April 8 or on the 28th of Nissan, but today, on the 28th of Nissan, the American troops broke into the gates of Buchenwald and liberated us after six years of horror. They opened the window to freedom, to life, and this is our birthday. Today, on the 28th of Nissan, we are 68 years old.”

Rabbi Lau recalled how residents of the nearby city of Weimar, a ten-minute walk from Buchenwald, claimed they hadn’t known or heard a thing about the atrocities that the Nazis had carried out just a short walk from their homes.

“I was so lucky to be a very small child at that time, so that an American officer could lift me up in his command car, and in front of the eyes of all the people of Weimar, he said, ‘Look at this child. He ‘endangered’ Germany. He ‘threatened’ you. Against whom did you declare a war? Against children of this age, of this size? Shame on you!’”

In the 68 years that passed, said Rabbi Lau, the Jews have undergone a tremendous change: They now have Israel, the Jewish State.

“We have a home. An independent home. We have where to go back today or tomorrow. We will not stay here. We go back home. We have a shelter. We have our nationality. We have our heritage. We have our own power,” he said.