The Chief of Staff and his delegation at the entrance to the Auschwitz camp
The Chief of Staff and his delegation at the entrance to the Auschwitz campIDF Spokesperson

Today, the Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kohavi, began his first official visit to the Republic of Poland. The Chief of the General Staff visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp alongside a delegation of combat commanders from the operational level of all branches in the IDF. As part of the tour, the Chief of the General Staff visited Block 27, the Jewish Pavilion. There, LTG Kohavi located the names of his relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust. Following the tour, the Chief of the General Staff participated in a ceremony held by the delegation dedicated to the human spirit and Jewish heroism in Birkenau.

Following the tour, the Chief of the General Staff will meet with the Chief of the General Staff of the Polish Armed Forces, General ( * * * * ) Rajmund Andrzejczak, in the city of Warsaw. This meeting is a direct continuation of General Andrzejczak’s visit to the State of Israel last week, as part of the International Operational Innovation Week held by the IDF, and as part of the cooperation between the two militaries.

Chief of the General Staff, LTG Aviv Kohavi said: “You do not need to be a historian or a researcher in order to understand the atrocities of the Holocaust: You need to be a human being! The pits full of skeletons and corpses and the crematoria cry out from the forests and the extermination camps. Any person who lies and denies the truth of this devastating and agonizing history, is a person who easily lies today and will continue to do so in the future with no hesitation. This is an additional reminder that such people must not be allowed to possess any sort of capability to develop lethal weapons. We did not come here to be enraged or hateful, but rather to strengthen the remembrance and its outcomes. We came to empathize with the pain and try to decipher meaning from the incomprehensible.”

“If you, the victims of the Holocaust, were given the opportunity to make one final wish before being lined up at the edge of the pit you had just finished digging, if you were given a split second to contemplate, after whisper ‘Shema Yisrael’, you would likely have wished that the Jewish nation have its own defense force, to avert and deflect any enemy on its own. You could not have imagined then that your grandchildren, or at least the neighbor’s grandchildren, would wear the uniforms of the Hebrew Army, and that we, sixteen unit and battalion commanders, would stand here today as this generation’s representatives of that army.”

“The families of several of these commanders were murdered in the extermination camps and the forests surrounding them. Some were murdered right here. Other members of their families fought against the Nazis as partisans or as soldiers in the Red Army. Many of the commanders are also the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. When the time came for their enlistment, they proudly wore their IDF uniforms and declared ‘I swear’ as their oath of loyalty. Since then, they have been defending the State of Israel: fighting, risking their lives and leading operations.”

“You would have been so proud of them. I am proud of them, on your behalf as well. We stand here, over your graves, with the humility and courage to honor you and tell you that on our uniforms, in place of the yellow star, there are now IDF symbols and campaign medals signifying wars and operations in which we defended the civilians of the State of Israel and repulsed our enemies.”

“We stand here today, sixteen battalion and unit commanders, each commanding over a unit that represents unique capabilities and military strength, a strength that enables us to defend the State of Israel and its civilians. They form a part of the IDF that consistently operates against enemies and defends in six different arenas, through preventing threats, initiating, striking, and establishing local and regional deterrence. We stand here, on this soil of human remains, with the soil from the State of Israel on the soles of our boots.”

“Even my family, who resided fifty kilometers from this camp, and also met their fate in this camp, could not have imagined that their descendant would stand here, and have the ability to say to them and to the remaining six million, that I was given the privilege of commanding over the Israel Defense Forces, a professional and moral military and one of the most prominent and advanced militaries in the world, which is a military of the people, that defends the nation.”

“We will return and commit to continuing our contribution to building the State of Israel and its people, as well as its security and its spirit- a spirit of morality, ethics and tolerance. One by one we will return to our routine;lives, striving to improve as humans and civilians. We will extend one hand and salute you, the victims, and we will grip the other hand and grasp our hope.”