Israel’s elections and political disputes were pushed aside yesterday as Israeli leaders joined some 47 world delegates to issue a rallying cry in a fight against anti-Semitism. The first of its kind, it was the largest ever diplomatic gathering that marked the 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation.
Gathering yesterday afternoon in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, world leaders joined forces and released a united call against any form of Anti-Semitism, racism, and hate. This unique rally, which included Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, French President Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Prince Charles as well as the presidents of Germany, Italy, Austria, and others united by their stance against anti-Semitism. Just before world leaders joined the Israelis in the room for the singing of Hatikava, Israel’s national anthem, Germany president Frank-Walter Steinmeier recited the Shehecheyanu blessing in Hebrew and expressed his deep sorrow on behalf of the German people.
Auschwitz, the Nazi industrial killing site where 1.2 million human beings were murdered and more than anywhere else during WWII, was liberated on January 27th, 1945 by the Red Army. 7,500 prisoners, most of them barely alive, stood by the fences, not knowing if they had died and reached the gates of heaven or if they had survived to see the day where the gates of hell on earth opened, allowing them to walk out as free people, human beings again, instead of just numbers.
And today, 75 years later we live in times where once again xenophobia and its many ugly faces are out in the light with it repeating attempts to re-write history, deny the Holocaust and its horrors, just as we’ve reached a time where fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors live among us. Leaders of the free world must hold hands in unity, reinforce the promise to never forget, and demonstrate, in memory of 6 million slain Jews and the many other millions killed in WWII, a loud and clear cry against evil and hatred of any kind.
Nowhere better or more appropriate than Jerusalem to host such a gathering—the only city sacred to all three major religions. The city of peace and of holiness; the city that throughout history has seen pain and joy, suffering and hope. The city of dreams, where stones touch people that touch stones.
As Israel’s President Rivlin spoke yesterday he vowed to renew the pledge to “never forget” alongside forty-four leaders and the nations they represent. A day to remember. A vow to keep.
Vice President, Israel Engagement, Director, Center for Israel Engagement