Israeli President Isaac Herzog marked the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Wednesday with an address delivered at the Monument to the Ghetto heroes in Warsaw.
Herzog arrived Wednesday morning for the event, which was preceded by a meeting with his Polish counterpart, President Andrzej Duda.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also attended the ceremony.
In his address, Herzog quoted an unknown Jewish resident of the Ghetto who had the presence of mind to enshrine in a diary what was happening to him and his neighbors.
“Eighty years ago today, on April 19, 1943, a Jewish resident of the Warsaw Ghetto, whose name remains unknown to this day, wrote in his diary: ‘We walk in threes, stepping on the cobblestones on which, on this very route, 300,000 Jews have trodden. This is the end,’ he wrote.
“’The end of the road. Calmly, I calculate: it is now 2 pm. I look at the clear April skies. Come nightfall, we will be taken to Treblinka. When dawn breaks, I will no longer be alive.
“’It’s a simple calculation: this is the last time I am seeing the blue skies between the clouds.’
“Today, exactly eight decades later, I think about that anonymous Jew. I look at the skies, like he did. The same cloudy April skies. And the pain pierces my heart,” Herzog said.
“I come here from Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the free, sovereign, Jewish and democratic State of Israel ,” he noted, adding that the delegation who came with him were descendants of those who “continue to be symbols of vibrant Jewish life, a millennium-old history, the rich and prosperous civilization of Polish Jewry . . . [and] the immense courage in ghettoes, camps and forests everywhere, always and by every means during the carnage of the terrible Holocaust that befell us during the Second World War.”
Herzog also quoted Zivia Lubetkin, a member of the leadership of the Jewish Combat Organization and a heroine of the revolt, whose granddaughter Eyal came with the delegation.
“’We have no chance of victory in battle. It was clear to us that we had no chance of victory in the usual sense of the word. But we knew that at the end of the day, we would emerge victorious.
“’We are the weak ones. But our strength lay in this: we believed in justice. We believed in humanity.’
“Zivia Lubetkin and her comrades were right and doubly so. Most of the warriors of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising did not survive. But their spirit, the spirit of man, won here on this soil sanctified with the blood of our heroic brethren.
“With them in a heroic battle against the Nazis and their accomplices in every country were the Righteous Among the Nations and members of the local resistance movements, including of course here in Poland the Polish Righteous Among the Nations and members of the Polish underground who risked their lives and chose to not stand idly by.”
Herzog thanked his Polish counterpart for his “colossal efforts” and his commitment to the “task of remembrance and commemoration.
“We must remember: there is nothing postmodern or relativistic about Holocaust remembrance. Absolute evil existed in the form of the Nazis and their accomplices. And absolute good existed in the form of the victims and the rebels from every nation.
“In the name of the many millions who cannot stand here, I, humbly as the president of the nation-state of the Jewish People, the State of Israel, a descendant of the community of Lomza which was completely wiped out in the terrible Holocaust, stand before and pledge: never again! The eternity of Israel shall not lie! Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live!”