23 January 2020
"I am writing this letter before my death, although I don't know the exact day my relatives and I will be killed just because we are Jews... How I yearn to live and reach some good in life. But everything is lost… Farewell."
These were the last words of Fanya Barbakow before she was murdered in the Druja ghetto in 1942.
The Holocaust was the most deadly manifestation of antisemitism. It was the outcome of an extreme racist ideology, adopted by a modern state, to blame one group for all collective ills.
Nazi antisemitism was used to legitimize unprecedented cruelty: the systematic murder of millions of innocent people. Even today, the Holocaust seems almost impossible to grasp. But we must do just that, because while the Nazi plan was aimed against the Jews, antisemitic atrocities never end with the Jews.
The Holocaust was a calamity for the Jewish people and a catastrophe for all people. The Shoah proved that modernity does not ensure morality. Values do not necessarily progress along with technology.
Seventy-five years after liberation, Holocaust remembrance is more relevant than ever. It serves as a lighthouse, warning us of the danger of extreme racist ideologies.
Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is the gatekeeper of Holocaust memory. It is here in Jerusalem that the voices and legacy of the Shoah victims and survivors are gathered, preserved and made accessible for all humanity.
Now, memory must be translated into action. Antisemitism, and all other forms of racism, will never be diminished through silence! Tackling antisemitism today requires a range of policies and tools – locally, nationally and internationally. International forums, such as ours here today fortify a united front against any expressions of racism, anywhere.
Our mutual duty is to educate the upcoming generation, to ensure that everyone understands what constitutes antisemitism, and remembers where it had led us in the past. As an educator, I realized early on that Yad Vashem must create the International School for Holocaust Studies. Here, professionals from around the world learn accurate facts about the Holocaust, and how to communicate its meanings to their communities, peers and students.
Our comprehensive research, numerous exhibitions and robust online presence are additional means to disseminate our knowledge to a global audience.
We are all here today because we share a deep concern about what is happening around the globe.
Your presence gives us hope: Hope of overcoming Holocaust denial and distortion.
Hope of securing individual rights and human dignity in all societies. And hope that the world we entrust to our children will be kinder and more tolerant than the one we inherited from our parents.
Despite the horrors they witnessed and endured, Holocaust survivors such as Rabbi Lau, did not lose faith in humanity. They chose life and contributed to every society they joined.
In 2002, survivor representatives signed a declaration here at Yad Vashem. "To the next generations," they wrote, "we pass on the Jewish message that memory leads to moral obligation. Memory must be the basis of action and the source of strength for building a better world."