Holocaust survivors' daughter at Auschwitz: 'This is my revenge'
Thousands of youth, joined by President Rivlin, IDF Chief of Staff Eisenkot, other dignitaries, participated in 30th March of the Living; survivor's descendant sees march as revenge, proof of perseverance; 'I came here because it's my revenge. This is my first and last time in this place,' she said.
Some 12,000 youths from 41 countries, joined by President Reuven Rivlin and heads of the Israeli defense establishment—the chief of staff, police chief and heads of the Shin Bet and Mossad—walked the three kilometers separating Auschwitz and Birkenau, the extermination section of the infamous death camp in Poland, as part of the March of the Living.
The marchers, many of them draped in Israeli flags, viewed with their own eyes the place that has become synonymous with hell on earth.
The Israeli delegation's visit came in the wake of a speech by President Reuven Rivlin, who attacked his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in his speech at Birkenau: "The Nazi death machine would not have been able to achieve its terrible vision, if it had not received help; if it had not found a fertile ground of hatred for Jews, in which to take root."
Rivlin added: “True, it was Germany that established the camps, but our people were not murdered only in the camps. The members of our nation were betrayed by the people amongst whom they lived, in France, in Holland, and in Belgium. They were murdered by Ukrainians, Lithuanians and yes ̶ also by Poles.”
“My very presence here is our revenge”
Ruth Feiglin, a Ramat Gan resident whose parents are Holocaust survivors, was one of the marchers. “My parents' families were exterminated in Auschwitz. I came here because it's my revenge. This is my first and last time in this place," she said.
Feiglin, originally from Australia, said she immigrated with her family to Israel many years ago. "I have three sons and two daughters. All my sons enlisted in the IDF—and two of them became officers—and I am very proud of them.”
According to her, the fact that this is the 30th year that the "March of the Living" is being held and that next week Israel will celebrate 70 years of independence is proof that "we must not rely on anyone, let alone forget what happened here. We must inform our children what occurred here. My son told me that he feels so proud to serve in the IDF, to go to Auschwitz and say: 'We are here, despite everything.'"
Becky, a participant from the United States, explained her decision to come to Poland: "I am here to honor my father, whose family perished in the Holocaust. Thank God that Israel exists, thank God we continue to win. My father waited for many years for the establishment of the State of Israel."
“This is the first year that I am marching,” said Giselle Cartela from Venezuela. “I am very excited and I am doing it on behalf of those who did not survive. I am lucky to be here.”
She said that she will attend Israel’s 70th anniversary next week: "I am going to celebrate, my husband was president of the Jewish National Fund in Venezuela for 20 years. He died ten years ago and his wish was to be buried in Jerusalem," she said.
According to her, the most important lesson the world has to learn from history is that "we will never give up, we started from nothing—and we will always survive. The nation of Israel lives!”
IDF chief of staff: ‘Guaranteeing state’s survival most important thing’
The marchers were joined by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot. He viewed the book of names at the Jewish barracks in the camp, noting, "It is very moving to return as chief of staff at the head of the IDF delegation to Poland.”
"The most empowering and potent thing is the composition of the delegation, which actually expresses the text 'From Shoah (Holocaust) to rebirth’. This is the power that enabled us to establish a state with an army that confers meaning to the words ‘Never again!’ The most important thing is guaranteeing the state’s continued existence,” Eisenkot said.
The general was joined by his son, a sergeant in the Maglan unit. This is the second time the chief of staff brought one of his children to the March of the Living. The previous time it was with his daughter Vered, also a soldier.
Rivlin meets granddaughter of Holocaust survivor killed in Paris
On the sidelines of the march, President Rivlin met intelligence officer Captain Keren Brosh, granddaughter of Mireille Knoll, the Holocaust survivor murdered in Paris last month. "I'm sure Grandmother was very proud of you," Rivlin told Keren.
"I was so horrified and hurt at the difficult news, I ask you to give your family our support." Last week, Rivlin sent a condolence letter to Mireille Knoll's family, in which he wrote: "On behalf of the entire State of Israel, I extend our sincere condolences for her terrible death."
"The fact that the terrible event took place only two weeks before the date when we commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day and mourn the victims is even more heartbreaking," added Rivlin.
"The growing anti-Semitic attacks throughout Europe, with rising support for racist-minded parties, are of particular concern, and we do not cease for a moment the demand, to all European leaders, to intensify the struggle to eradicate the phenomenon. It is so difficult to comprehend that the life of one who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, and whose home was open to all who were in need, ended so brutally," the president concluded.