President Herzog speaking at the ceremony.
President Herzog speaking at the ceremony. Amos Ben-Gershom

President Isaac Herzog spoke tonight at the Closing Ceremony for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2022 at the Ghetto Fighters’ House. The ceremony this year is being held with the theme of “Our Legacy to Future Generations,” preserving the legacy of Holocaust survivors past and present.

During the ceremony, six torches were lit by Holocaust survivors, and six wreaths were laid by the children of Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot in memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

President Isaac Herzog’s full speech:

Exactly twenty years ago, in April 2002, you, dear Zvi Gil, recited in the Valley of the Communities at Yad Vashem, where last night you lit a torch, for the sake of honor and eternal remembrance, what has come to be known as the “Survivors’ Manifest.” A manifest that addressed, in its own words, how “the memory of the Holocaust will be transformed from an imposed fate, etched on our flesh and our souls, to a historical destiny, which humanity and future generations bear the duty to suffuse with content and substance.”

At this sacred occasion, as we close this day of terrible majesty, a day that reminds us of the deepest abyss to which mankind has ever sunk, I wish to talk about the ways in which we can turn lessons into action. For this day is not only about the past, and we must not allow it to be only about the past; it is also about the responsibility that we bear, in the present and in the future.

My sisters and brothers, fate has decreed that we and our children be the last generation to have the privilege of hearing about the atrocities of the Holocaust from first-hand sources. And indeed, this is a tremendous privilege.

We are a remembering people. Jewish memory is an active endeavor. But the Holocaust must not become only a field of historical research. We must not make do with memory alone. This ceremony is taking place with the theme of “Our Legacy for Future Generations,” and Jewish tradition gives us tools for how to instill heritage and memory, and how to transform them into action.

Just a few days ago, we commemorated the Festival of Liberty and the Exodus from Egypt. When we sat around the Seder table, we learned that the verse “When, in time to come, a child of yours asks you” (Exodus 13:14) is the ultimate guarantee of memory. In other words, the path to memory, the path to instilling our formative story, runs through questions, through debate, and even through arguments—the heart of the Jewish method. Only thus can one feel that memory is one’s own. Only thus can one feel obligated to draw lessons from it, to turn study into action.

Here too, as on every subject, unto every generation, its own lessons; unto every period, its own lessons; and unto every community, its own lessons. We must not be startled by this fact, by this variety, by this mosaic. This is the only way in which the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons may continue to live within us. From generation to generation. Out of brainstorming. Out of inclusive debate. Out of shared thinking. Out of daily engagement, exactly as the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum does.

Indeed, there is great value to the diversity of opinions among us. But there is common ground, and there are contours and boundaries, that we must absolutely not forfeit when we talk about the lessons of the Holocaust.

Number one: the State of Israel, as diverse as it is, with such an immense diversity of communities and faiths, is the national home of the Jewish People. We shall therefore forever preserve our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves.

Number two: the Jewish People and Israeli society must sanctify the value of mutual responsibility and refuse to forgo it, even in times of discord and arguments. The lessons of the past and the challenges of the moment compel us to know how to work together.

Number three: love of man, because “beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God” (Pirkei Avot 3:14).

Ladies and gentlemen, another duty that we bear is the duty to remember and invoke the memory of the mighty spirit of the victims, of the Righteous Among the Nations, of the partisans, and of the ghetto fighters. I wish to salute those who have worked night and day, with infinite devotion, determination, love, sensitivity, and a sense of mission, and who have been working day-in day-out, hour after hour, for the sake of the sacred task—yes, the truly sacred task—of preserving the memory and making it a heritage to be passed down the generations.

The Ghetto Fighters’ House has become, quite rightly, a central institution in the inculcation of the memory of the Holocaust and in the transmission of the values that we must assimilate as a result of being the bearers of this memory. Here, at the Ghetto Fighters’ House, although not only here, we remember your heroism, beloved Holocaust survivors—you who found the strength, arose from dust and ashes, and “walked with heads held high” (Leviticus 26:13).

You proved that the vision of Antek Zuckerman, Zivia Lubetkin, and their comrades, who were among the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and among those who laid the foundations of the kibbutz and museum here has come true. And indeed these mighty walls and living homes have taken the place of ruin and destruction. Thanks to you, thanks to your heroism, “our march will yet roar: we are here.”

Ladies and gentlemen, as is written in the “Survivors’ Manifest”: “Memory does not stand alone as an independent value, but is empowered as a moral duty.” Indeed, the memory of the Holocaust and its lessons obligate us. They obligate us to vigilantly guard the three values that I noted: the duty to the State of Israel and its power, the duty to the Jewish People and its cohesion, and the duty toward humanity and its morality. But these duties in fact represent privileges, sacred privileges. Privileges that we must revive once more in our hearts, until the last generation.

May the memories of the victims, the six million of our people, be bound and blessed in the heart of the nation, passing from generation to generation as a living, painful, and most of all instructive memory.