Photo Credit: Shlomi Amsalem / GPO
Austria's Chancellor Karl Nehammer embraces Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid during visit to Mauthausen concentration camp on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2022

Israeli Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid Chairperson Yair Lapid said in a passionate speech Thursday marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day that he was there to remind the world that his grandfather, Bela Lampel, “was not a number.”

During his address at the Mauthausen concentration camp alongside Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Foreign Minister Alexander Sschallenberg, Interior Minister Gerhard Karner and Jewish Community President Oskar Deutsch, Lapid declared that although the Nazis “thought they were the future, and that Jews would be something you only find in a museum,” it is Mauthausen that has become the museum, and the Jewish State is the future.

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“I came here today to remind the world that Bela Lampel was not a number,” Lapid said.

“I came here today to remind the world that Bela Lampel was not a number. He was my grandfather. He loved his beautiful wife. He went to football matches with his child. He never wronged anyone. He wasn’t an important man. He didn’t hate anyone. He was simply… Jewish.”

“When he arrived here, the Nazis already knew that they had lost the war. The mighty machine that was the German Army had collapsed. They needed every soldier, every slice of bread, every rifle – and yet, they continued to kill Jews up until the very last moment.”

“According to the records here at Mauthausen, my grandfather died in April 1945. A couple of weeks later, Nazi Germany surrendered. That was the last significant thing the Nazis did – killing my grandfather.”

“But dying was not the last significant thing that he did. Because my grandfather did one other thing, even if he did it after his death: He sent me here today.”

“Granpa Bela, a quiet man whose family nickname was “Bela the Wise”, sent me here today to say on his behalf, that the Jews have not surrendered. They’ve established a strong, free, and proud Jewish state, and they sent his grandson, to represent them here today.”

“The Nazis thought they were the future, and that Jews would be something you only find in a museum. Instead, the Jewish state is the future, and Mauthausen is a museum. Rest in peace, grandfather, you won.”

In response, during his speech the Austrian Chancellor told Lapid, “Dear Yair, I apologize on behalf of the Republic of Austria for the crimes committed here. I apologize that your grandfather was murdered here.”

Lapid recited the Mourner’s Kaddish and laid a wreath on behalf of the Israeli government at the death camp. Later in the tour, he lit a candle in the Room of Names in memory of his grandfather, Bela Lampel z”l, and in memory of all who perished at Mauthausen.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.