The first selection took place 3,400 years ago. “Let us deal shrewdly with them,” says Pharaoh, “so that they may not increase” (Exodus 1:10). The conclusion was “if it is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” And a baby that was just three months old, the first child of the Holocaust, Moses, (he hadn’t received the name Moses yet), is found in the wicker basket in the Nile, and the first Righteous Among the Nations, the daughter of Pharaoh, opens the basket. Pay attention to the words of the Bible: “When she opened it, she saw that it was a child, a boy crying.” (Exodus 1:6) And she saw - it doesn’t say that she heard. She didn’t hear. Either he is a child or a boy? He was a baby, only three months old, but he didn’t cry like a baby, he cried like a boy, mature, with the natural instinct that told him not to cry loudly. Don’t give yourself up. Don’t give up everyone around you in the house. He had learned to cry silently. “She saw that it was a child”, objectively, “a boy crying”, it was seen. She saw his spasm; she didn’t hear a voice. And she understood. “She took pity on it and said, ‘This must be a Hebrew child.’” (Exodus 1:6) A Jewish child is crying here. I remember until this very day, I can still sense it if I want to, at the age of five and four months, in an attic on Jerusalemska Street in Piotrkow, ten people were hiding in the attic, and the Germans entered the empty building, to search during the final aktion for Jews that were hiding. My mother had been ready for this moment, and stuffed me with honey cookies she had prepared at home, so that my mouth would be full and I wouldn’t say “mama”. That I wouldn’t say anything, that I wouldn’t cry, because then ten people would have been taken to their deaths. And I think, perhaps it’s just an illusion, that I looked her in the eyes and said, “Mother, this is unnecessary. I understand what is going on.”
In the Warsaw Ghetto there was the Jewish historian Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum. He writes: “If there will be an end to this inferno, and they will at some point want to commemorate in future generations what had been in the Warsaw Ghetto, and will want to describe the heroism of the ghetto, I recommend to them that they should make a statue”, not like this statue by Rapaport, but a statue of a Jewish child, because he is the true hero of the Holocaust. Thus Ringelblum writes. I remember a generous German who was part of the staff in Buchenwald. When my friend Dudek Shidlovsky and I, at the age of seven and a half, would approach him, he would give us a piece of bread with jam. We would split it in half- he folded his half up and put it in the pocket of his pajama in order to split it with his father Leibel. I split my half with my brother Naphtali. Moshe Pshigurshky from our block, born in Piotrkow and with me in Buchenwald, a boy about ten years old, remembers how on Shabbat Hagadol (the Sabbath before Passover), two weeks before the liberation, which we didn’t know was coming, he had yahrzeit, the day of mourning for his father’s death. He wanted to say Kaddish, the memorial prayer for the dead, for him. He was a boy ten years old, but he didn’t have a prayer book. There were no prayer books in Buchenwald, and he didn’t know the prayer by heart. Until one Jew told him that someone else who works in the clothing storage facility had a prayer book. He approached him, and said “give it to me”? The man said “no”. He didn’t want to endanger himself or the child. Then Moshe took out his daily ration of bread, and said take the bread and gave me the prayer book for five minutes. He split the bread with him. The man didn’t stand in the child’s way, he gave him the prayer book. It was the Sabbath before Passover. Moshe took that opportunity to recite the entire Haggadah of Passover, with “He who stood up for our forefathers and for us”.
These are the survivors. As was mentioned, one and a half million did not survive. Great heroes. Smuggling themselves, supporting families, between and under the barbed wire fencing, going back and forth from the ghetto to the Aryan side, with such resourcefulness and courage, with such determination and Jewish pride. To trade the daily portion of bread to say Kaddish for a father.
We have another youth who sits in darkness, a boy who is a few years older than we had been, he is not far from here in Gaza, and his name is Gilad Schalit. Tonight, the Night of Remembrance, which Yad Vashem established tonight’s ceremony as marking Children in the Holocaust, that the children of Israel should know to value that which we have, a national home, a state, freedom, sovereignty, the ability to walk upright, a backbone, we can and perhaps must kiss the clods of earth of the land that provides the right to Jewish identity and a complete life in our home.