IDF chief: Holocaust horrors lend special importance to notion of Jewish revival

IDF chief: Holocaust horrors lend special importance to notion of Jewish revival

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot leads a delegation of Israel military officials through Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland • Thousands of people from around the world set to participate in March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau.

Noam Dvir and Israel Hayom Staff

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot leading the military delegation in Auschwitz, Sunday | Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

If there is one image that symbolizes the notion of the Holocaust and subsequent Jewish resurrection, it is that of an Israeli general standing at the gate of the Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland.

This moving sight was seen again Sunday, when IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot led a delegation of Israeli military officials through the camp.

An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz during the war, the vast majority of them Jews, but also Poles, Roma, homosexuals, communists, dissidents and prisoners of war. Of an estimated 1.1 million people who died in the camp, some 960,000 were Jews.

“This is the first time I have come here, the first time I’m seeing this up close, and things have taken on a completely different meaning. Even when you try to imagine what they [Jews imprisoned in Auschwitz] went through, it’s inconceivable,” Eizenkot said in a ceremony held at the site.

“Here in this hall, is the essence of everything that is Israeli, commanders, survivors and family members. The memory of the Holocaust is a central part of our experience. The March of the Living is very significant to me.”

Eizenkot said that “the State of Israel’s military is mighty in both force and spirit. Just as we were finishing the tour, I got a text message with a photo of the three F-35 fighter jets that landed in Israel on Sunday, and the Air Force commander wrote, ‘An addition to the IDF and IAF’s might.’ I texted back, ‘We looked up and searched for the three jets.'”

Eizenkot was referring to three Israeli F-15 fighter jets that carried out a ceremonial flight over Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2003.

“There is a link between the three F-15 jets that flew over Auschwitz, far too late, unfortunately, and the fact that on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, three of the most advanced fighter jets in the world landed in Israel, bolstering the IDF. This is what the Israel Defense Forces is meant to do — to protect our country, ensure its existence and, if we are called upon, win the war.”

At the end of the visit, Eizenkot signed the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum’s guest book, writing that the visit gives special importance to the notion of Jewish revival.

“This is my first visit to Poland as IDF chief of staff,” he wrote. “Seeing this evil up close, it is very difficult to understand it; a killing machine that systematically murdered our people. The words from Holocaust to resurrection are given special importance. To know that survivors of the Holocaust rose after having lost their families, immigrated to the land of Israel, established a home there and built the Jewish State of Israel after 2,000 years, is to understand that only the State of Israel, with its strong and powerful military, can prevent similar incidents in the future.”

On Monday, the traditional March of the Living was set to take place, with thousands of people expected to participate in the 3-kilometer walk from the Auschwitz main camp to the Birkenau death camp.

The Israeli delegation includes Habayit Hayehudi leader and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Chief Justice Miriam Naor, and 75 Holocaust survivors. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv and a Holocaust survivor, headed the delegation.

During the visit Sunday, Dr. Leah Goldin, whose son, Givati Brigade Lt. Hadar Goldin, was killed in Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip in 2014 and whose body was abducted by Hamas, read a letter her son wrote during his school trip to Poland in 2008.

“Mom and Dad … I want to tell you that thanks to you, I know where I’m going. I’m going to the State of Israel, my country, our country,” he wrote.