Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 's Speech
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Speech at the State Ceremony in Latrun marking the 70th Anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Germany
Distinguished Guests, President Reuven Rivlin,
I will do two of your commandments: one, we will take care of the budget to complete the museum, first thing. And two, I will not list all the dignitaries here. I know that for many of you this is the big day, the most important day of the year. I know that for many of you, this is the big day, the most important day of the year.
Seven years have passed since Nazi Germany was defeated, but the war remains with you, and with the joy of victory, which we celebrate every year, you remember painfully relatives who perished and fallen comrades, you look at the scars in your body and feel the shrapnel that remains in your flesh to this day. You were boys and girls in bloody battlefields, mud, snow, ice, and some of you in a hot desert too.
The war took your youth away from you, but you gave humanity salvation and hope, because if the Nazi evil machine had not stopped, a catastrophe would have occurred many times. It is impossible to know where humanity was headed. Your sacrifice has prevented this catastrophe, and today you are in the ninth decade. I know that there are even people here in their tenth decade, and in each of you is still hiding the young soldier who rushed forward because he knew that the choice was one - life or death. Life or death to yourself, but life or death to the civilized.
And it was a combined effort, first of all on the long eastern front - Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, through the Dnieper to Berlin. The battles for the Auschwitz camp in January 1945 were particularly difficult. The Germans defended themselves desperately. They understood that they had to hide the horrors they had committed, but there too you won. And when you entered Auschwitz you encountered walking skeletons in prison uniforms, many of them could not believe at first that the gates of the camp had been opened wide. And the head of the battalion that conquered Auschwitz from the Nazis was a Jew, Anatoly Shapiro. The first sentence he said to the prisoners was: The Red Army has come to release you. A Jewish commander.
At the same time, efforts were made to inflict defeat on the Nazis in other Western European theaters, on the landing beaches in Normandy, in the mountains, in the forests, in El Alamein, in the Far East as well. All the forces fought shoulder to shoulder - the Yishuv volunteers in Eretz Israel and the soldiers of the Brigade, whom our president had pointed out, to the partisans and members of the anti-Nazi undergrounds, to the Allied armies. In addition to the helplessness of our brothers and sisters, the six million who were exterminated because there was no one to protect them, a million and a half other Jews, men and women, took up arms and fought valiantly to eradicate evil on land, air and sea.
Less than two months ago, on the day of the Knesset elections, one of them, Arkady and Rachovsky, 90, died in Jerusalem. I heard his story from his grandson, MK Ze'ev Elkin, who was born in the Ukraine in 1942. He joined the Soviet army, served as a squad commander in the Armored Corps, was wounded three times, and was twice decorated for exceptional heroism. - The goal was to survive the day. We fought wholeheartedly, we did our duty. The Germans were in the front, the Nazis ..., "he says." We were in the middle and we knew there was nothing behind. No one wanted to go back to the home front, "he said." We knew the chances of survival were very low, because there were huge losses in each battle. "Arkadi's story that survived this inferno is one of many examples of the heroism of the spirit and the determined stance of the Jewish fighter in World War II.
Indeed, as President Rivlin said, this heroism has a direct connection to the establishment of the State of Israel. First of all, you are willing to fight the Nazis, and your victory helped our people survive and gain their independence. Some of you said to each other: "I may not get it, but if you succeed, go to the Land of Israel." This was the will of many Jewish fighters, and indeed after the war many came to Israel and participated in the campaign for Israel's independence. As the President said, the Israel Defense Forces was based to a large extent on the experience of the warriors who defeated the Nazis. There is no precedent for a nation that, three years after a third of it was destroyed, established a state, and this country, which was attacked the next day by seven armies, won a crushing victory.
The lesson learned during the Holocaust is still valid today. We paid an unbearable price because we did not have a state. Today we have a state and soldiers with weapons whose job is to protect us from our enemies, and we know that the first lesson is that we must be able, ready and capable to defend ourselves against any threat. This is the lesson of seventy years of victory over the Nazis.
To the government that I will present with God's help next week many challenges in many areas - security, political, economic and social. The greatest challenge is Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons, while simultaneously developing terror and occupation fronts throughout the Middle East around our borders. We will be able to challenge this. We also know that not only are we threatened, but also others in our region. This creates common interests and it also creates opportunities for promoting alliances and perhaps even for promoting peace. We will examine all these possibilities, along with the other challenges that we are obliged to face.
I would like to tell you, dear warriors, veterans of the battles, that you inspire us, because the challenge you faced was unbearable, unbearable, and the price you paid to pay is inconceivable. Your heroism joins a long chain of our fighters throughout the ages. It is clear to me that memories of war are not easy, to say the least. I know that there are many cases that even your children and grandchildren, who continue your path and serve in the Israel Defense Forces, are not always able to talk to you.
I ask you - tell your story to the younger generation, they want to hear you, they are thirsty to know what you have done. We all want to hear. We all want to respect, appreciate, admire.
Our beloved brothers and sisters, the citizens of Israel cherish you, the State of Israel loves you, and the people of Israel salute you. A happy victorious day!