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Katsav and Sharon, in separate forums,
reflect on lasting Holocaust lessons
,  Jan. 27, 2005

holocaust file

For Moshe Katsav, the president of Israel, the ceremony today (Thursday, Jan. 27) marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops was an opportunity to alert European leaders that events that led to the Holocaust  may be happening all over again.

"Sixty years after the Shoah we witness a re-emergence of anti-Semitism in Europe," he told a gathering at Birkenau. "Is it possible that the deterrent power of the Shoah has weakened? The answer is in the hands of Europe's leaders. It is in the hands of the educators and the historians. It is in our hands."

He added that "world leaders must be aware that dangerous doctrines can again emerge in the world, false doctrines which are based on ignorance, on brainwashing, on incitement and hatred, on blindness, on deceit and falsification, on coercion and on base instincts, on the exploitation of democracy to achieve dictatorship, on terrorism and bloodshed, on crematoria and fire, on murderous fanaticism."

Katsav, in a speech made available over the website of Israel's Foreign Ministry, continued: "The world leadership is responsible for the fate of humanity. We ought not place our hope in mankind's resilience. Human progress and technology do not ensure the prevention of totalitarianism and may be used by tyranny to achieve its goals.

"We have seen that thinkers and philosophers, great musicians and composers, scientists and doctors can place themselves at the disposal of despotic rulers and become partners to ruin, destruction and bloodshed. This is what happened in the Shoah...."

For Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of Israel, the ceremony which he marked one day earlier in the Knesset had another meaning—that Jews must always be ready to stand up for themselves because other nations may simply step aside.

He recalled how in 1939 the ship St. Louis with 1,000 passengers seeking refuge from Germany was turned away from ports of the United States and Cuba; how in 1943, the Bermuda Conference of the Allies failed to address any plan to rescue Jews from their annihilation at the hands of the nazis; how the British Mandate closed off Palestine to Jews trying to escape; how throughout the war the Allied powers could have bombed the tracks leading to Auschwitz, or Auschwitz itself, to stop the factory of death.

"Mr. Speaker," Sharon said, "the sad and horrible conclusion is that no one cared that Jews were being murdered."

Israel, he said, was established to provide a safe haven for Jews. "We know that we can trust no one but ourselves," said the prime minister. "This phenomenon of Jews defending themselves and fighting back is anathema to the new anti-Semites. Legitimate steps of self-defense which Israel takes in its war against Palestinian terrorists--actions which any sovereign state is obligated to undertake to ensure the security of its citizens--are presented by those who hate Isael as aggressive, 'nazi-like' steps."

Sharon said Israel "will continue to act tirelessly in order that the memory of Auschwitz and the lessons of the Holocuast will not be forgotten, so that Auschwitz will never again must always be remembered tht this is the only place in the world where we, the Jews, have the right and the capability to defend ourselves, by ourselves. And we will never relinquish this. It is our historic responsibility. It is my personal historic responsibility."         —Donald H. Harrison