When World War II ended, we entertained the hope and expectation that the conscience of the nations of the world would awaken, perhaps even be tormented, and that attitudes would change towards our people. Regrettably, we were quickly disappointed. It was this disappointment, the realization that we cannot rely on anyone, the clash between our hopes and the world’s indifference, which ignited within us the strength to cross borders, to embark the Maapilim ships and to reach our homeland any way we could, in order to breathe new life into our dry bones.
We never stopped believing in the “Return to Zion”. At night, while in the hell of Auschwitz, I would quietly sing Avigdor Hameiri’s song:
“Above the peak of Mount Scopus
Greetings to you, Jerusalem”
I never stopped believing that our enemies would not defeat us.
Few of us survived; millions didn’t. One of them was my friend in Auschwitz, Natan from Salonika. He only spoke Greek and Ladino, and suffered greatly as a result. The only language we had in common was the Hebrew he remembered from prayers. In the evenings, he would sing Ladino songs, one of which is engraved in my memory:
Arvoles lloran por lluvia
y montañas por aire
Ansí lloran mis ojos
por ti querida Mama
Lloro y digo qué va a ser de mí
En tierras ajenas me vo murir
Trees cry for rain
And mountains for air
That is how my eyes weep
For you, beloved Mother
I weep and ask what will become of me
In a far away land I shall die.
Natan was taken away from me in one of the selections… may G-d avenge his death. From Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, we, the Holocaust survivors turn to you, nations of the world. We pay tribute to the thousands of Righteous Among the Nations in your midst, who risked their lives to save Jews.
The grove of trees on this mountain, and the commemorative plaques in the Garden of the Righeous Among the Nations express our innermost feelings and our gratitude to you. However, we have to say that the responsibility for the murder of our parents and families lies not only with the Nazi Germans, but also with their countless collaborators from different European countries. Without the various “Demjanjuks”, the “Eichmanns” would not have succeeded in their carnage.
Regrettably, seventy years on, antisemitism is once again rearing its head. It has changed its guise, from the pure antisemitism against the Jews then, to the contemporary antisemitism against the State of Israel.
We Holocaust survivors came to our historic homeland in order to prevent the events of the past from occurring in the future; in order to remind the world that we will never forget what was done to us.
We have established new generations in Israel: scientists, soldiers, Torah scholars, agricultural workers and industrialists, lawyers and statesmen yearning for peace and tranquility.
Please, let us develop and strengthen our country, the democratic state of the Jewish people. We have yearned and prayed for Zion for thousands of years, aspiring to live here and to ensure the continuation of our existence here.
For we are here. “Mir Zaynen Do”, and we will remain here forevermore.