Photo: Elad Gershgoren
Holocaust Memorial Day closing ceremony at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot
Photo: Elad Gershgoren

Lapid: '598 of the 600 people were dead, my father survived'

FM Lapid, IDF Chief Gantz address closing ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day; Gantz: 'IDF operate in the name of those who were murdered in the Holocaust'

Thousands of people joined Holocaust survivors, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Yair Lapid Monday evening to participate in the closing ceremony of this years Holocaust Memorial Day events.



The ceremony is held in Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz) and was broadcast live on Ynet.


One of the themes this year's Holocaust Memorial Day dealt with was the extermination of over half a million Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.


Lapid, himself of Hungarian descent, described how his father and grandmother managed to survive: "It was the winter of 1945 and Budapest was under attack with the Russians nearing. My father lived in a ghetto basement with 600 other people. At this point they are surviving off of dead horses they would find in the streets. The Germans begun taking the Jews in a procession of death, taking them straight to the Danube, and the Danube was red that winter.


"My grandmother and father were near a green shed that was public bathroom… and my grandmother pushed my father inside and they hid inside the shed as the procession continued without them. Ten minutes later 598 of the 600 people in the procession were dead."


Lapid added how he returned to visit Budapest with his father, "It was actually a joyous trip, but one day we started walking and all of a sudden he stopped and started to cry and I didn't understand why. He said to me 'look Yairi', but all I could see was a small public toilet shed painted in green. Yes, it was still standing there.


"When my father calmed down, he told me 'Yairi, this is the place at which I was reborn and you were born, but it was also the birth place of my Zionism. I realized that I must always have a place to go to. I cannot live in a world where I don't have a place to call home. In order for that to happen Israel must always exist."


The son of a Holocaust survivor

At the same time, an additional ceremony was taking place at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the south of Israel. It was attended by Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Opposition Chairman Isaac Herzog and Hungary's ambassador to Israel who will also light a torch.


"I, the son of Batia, a Holocaust survivor, stand here before you to promise that there will never be Jewish children standing with the fear of death in their eyes again" said Ya'alon during the ceremony.


"Our enemies attempt to disrupt our lives and spread vile lies about us. I call the world nations to fight against anti-Semitism. We will continue to reach our hand to the worst of our enemies as we need to continue to be a country that sanctifies life and fight violence of any kind." Added Ya'alon.


'IDF will continue to be the Jewish people defender'


IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz said at the Holocaust Memorial Day closing ceremony in Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot that "When World War II was over, those of us who survived had a difficult and painful freedom. The concept that helped us heal was the faith and hope that the new world will be different and the society in the land of Israel will be just, moral and pure."


The same dream and values continue to guide IDF commanders and soldiers to this very day. IDF was always the type of army who took its strength from the society it defended and is a part of its construction whose basic moral standards are human dignity and the value of human life.


The IDF is an army whose commanders and soldiers accept the other and its rights. They operate in the name of those who were murdered in the Holocaust, in light of the rebels' bravery, in light of the survivors' dream and in light of the world of values they set for us.


"Even as we about to open our 67th year as an independent country, we are facing many threats near and far. As IDF commander, as second generation Holocaust survivors' and second generation to the revival, I promise – IDF will continue to be the Jewish people defender in Israel and in the Diaspora – with our heads up we will continue to fight those who seek to harm us.


From Generation to generation we will continue to promise the eternal legacy of the Jewish people in its country which is the idea behind the foundation of the state of Israel" said Gantz.


Hungary's murderous past

Even though Hungarian regime of Miklós Horthy stopped transferring Jews to death camps because of international pressure, after the March 1944 occupation of the country by the Nazis, they succeeded in murdering the more than half a million of country's Jewish population in less than six months.


Before the extermination operation, the country's Jews were sent to Budapest and then sent on trains to Poland. Transfers continued until July 1944. Afterwards the Nazi controlled regieme began murering Jews in the street and throwing their bodies into the Danuba.


Ealrier Monday, some 12,000 people from dozens of countries worldwide, both Jews and non-Jews, took part in the March of the Living from Auschwitz to the Birkenau extermination camp, to mark Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.


This year, the march marks 70 years since the accelerated extermination of Hungarian Jews in 1944, spearheaded by Adolf Eichmann.


The silent annual march began Monday when the shofar, a ram's horn, sounded by the former camp's notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Makes You Free) gate.


The march began with remembering the genocide in Rwanda, the mass slaughter in the Balkan and the murder of tens of thousands of innocent people in Syria.


"We started the March of the Living 26 years ago to send a message against anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Unfortunately, our efforts have yet to bear fruit," the March's organizers said.


The delegation from Israel includes representatives from Israel Police - including Commissioner Yohanan Danino, a group of Supreme Court judges, Holocaust survivors, director-generals of ministries and many teenagers.


The weather may make the walk difficult and cause delays, as it's been pouring rain since the early morning hours.


One of the passengers on the "Train of the Living" from Budapest to Auschwitz was Catherine Zummer, who at the age of 6 was taken with her mother, siblings and hundreds of other Jews by the Hungarist pro-Nazi Arrow Cross Party to one of the mass executions the Hungarian fascists done at the heart of the capital.


פרסום ראשון: 04.28.14, 19:38
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