Theology Thursdays: World Leaders Pledge to Prevent Repeat of Holocaust by David Horovitz
President Moshe Katsav delivered a blistering attack on Thursday on the failure of the Allied forces to bomb Auschwitz and the railroad leading to it in the final months of WWII, at a time when hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives could still have been saved.
Speaking at a ceremony in Krakow's main theater shortly before traveling to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Katsav said, "sixty years later we still find it hard to believe that the world stood silent" as the killing went on. "The allies did not do enough to stop the Holocaust," he said, "To stop the destruction of Jewish people. The gates of countries around the world, the gates to Israel, were kept closed in the face of those who tried to escape."
"The Allies knew about the destruction of the Jews and didn't act to stop it," the president said. "Hundreds of thousands could have been saved." Katsav noted that air sorties passed next to Auschwitz-Birkenau, "but Auschwitz was not bombed bombing the railways would have prevented the destruction of the Jews. The Germans knew that they were going to lose, but they continued, even accelerated, the destruction of the Jews,' Katsav said, and the Allies did not stop them.
Looking to the future, Katsav said that he had confidence in Europe's leaders and their common values with Israel, in the determined, concerted effort to prevent humankind from committing such destruction again. He called the Holocaust "a failure of humanity as a whole" and urged, with respect to Auschwitz that "a better future must grow out of this damned place."
He noted that the Nazis capitalized on anti-Semitism that was already rooted in Europe and said he had concern about the distorted sentiments held by European youngsters.
Speaking at the same event, US Vice President Richard Cheney noted that in the death camps of Europe some of the greatest crimes the human mind can conceive were committed.
He praised the heroism "among the helpless," and spoke of the righteous Jews who were "led to their deaths affirming to the end their faith in almighty God."
While the scale of killing was unthinkable, Cheney said it was crucial to remember that each victim had a name, a home, and hopes for the future. Each was an individual who "no man had any right to harm."
The mass murder, said the Vice President, took place moreover "in the very heart of the civilized world." The death camps were created by men "with high opinions of themselves, refined manners, but no conscience."
The lesson of Auschwitz, said Cheney, is that evil is real and must be confronted and that messages of intolerance and hatred must be opposed before they turn into acts of horror.
He said he sought God's help "to recognize evil in all its forms" so that it could never rise again.
Earlier Thursday, Katsav met with Cheney for talks that focused on new opportunities vis- -vis the Palestinians and ways to confront the efforts by Middle East states to attain weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking earlier, the Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko pledged that there would "never again be a single 'Jewish Question' in my country. I vow that." He said he wanted his people and the world to know that "the tragedy of the past will never again be repeated on the soil of the Ukraine."
He noted that his own father had been imprisoned at Auschwitz and had told him as a child of the terrible killings of those whose only crime was that they were Jewish. He had felt pain throughout his own life because of his father's stories, the Ukrainian president said, and he wanted his whole country to feel it, because only the pain "will give us the strength and wisdom to make sure that the doors to Hell are closed."
Poland's President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the initiator of the 60th anniversary event, began his address with words of praise for Israel as represented by Katsav, "a state built by a nation that survived extermination."
He said he was confident of the desire of "nearly all mankind for evil never again to prevail on such a scale, never for any Auschwitz to happen again."
But he stressed that it was "only in a world that learns proper lessons from history" that such crimes could be prevented and that it was incumbent on the international community to build a future free of racism and xenophobia.
"The lessons of Nazi crimes still remain to be fully grasped by all humanity," he said.
He said he was not just mouthing slogans but that Poland, Israel and others were engaged in a variety of initiatives to bolster Holocaust education and that "a safe world could be the most wonderful tribute to all those who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau."
The ceremony at the theater also included a video message from Major Anatoly Shapiro, the commander of the Soviet Red Army Forces, which liberated Auschwitz in 1945, who urged concerted international action to ensure no repeat Holocaust.
Elie Weisel, speaking at the Krakow event, recalled his incredulity on arrival at the camp to learn that the Jews "were being sent to the flames and that the world was silent."
He told world leaders and young people in the audience, "if you walk away [from these remembrance ceremonies] the same, then we have lost. We have to put an end to the curse of hatred, to the scourge of anti-Semitism," he said.
"Hatred is a cancer. It goes from limb to limb, from person to person, from group to group."
Weisel said that "logically," in 1945, the Jewish people could have had "a collective nervous breakdown." But rather incredibly, the Jews were moved to action, to be "more active, energetic, and committed."
This article appears in The Jerusalem Post
Thursday, January 27, 2005