Address of President Shimon Peres at Har Herzl on the occasion of Yom Hashoah

Address of President Shimon Peres at Har Herzl on the occasion of Yom Hashoah



Dear Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu,

Speaker of the Knesset, Mr. Reuven Rivlin,

President of the Supreme Court, Justice Asher Grunis,

Chief Rabbis, Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar and Rabbi Yona Metzger,

Chairman of Yad Vashem, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau,

Director of Yad Vashem, Mr. Avner Shalev,

Respected survivors of the Holocaust,

Esteemed Righteous Among the Nations,

Dear guests,



On my way here, the glowing lights of Jerusalem were suddenly replaced by the sparks of fire which once consumed my people. This is us. This is our people, a people of illumination, an orphan people. This is us. Holocaust survivors, builders of resurgence, my brothers and sisters, tonight our tearing eyes turn to those who are not here with us, and our wide opened eyes gaze upon the yet to come.


During the holidays I travelled all over the country. Blue skies, blooming fields, lovely children, hard-working people. I wondered about the communities they originated from which are no longer. For a moment, I replaced Tel Aviv with Vilna, Haifa with Bialystok, Dgania, Nahalal, Beer-Sheva with Plonsk, Riga, Odessa.

Not a single Jew remains there.

The furnaces of the Nazi dictator and his emissaries brought calamity to the world and a holocaust onto my people.

Holocaust deniers negate the deeds of their predecessors so as to cover their own crimes.

The falsehood of negation will not extinguish the fire of the inferno.

The piles of tortured bodies, the wounded thrown into the ditches of death, the furnaces burning the living. These are our witnesses for ever.


The last breath of the infants in their mothers’ arms will continue to horrify all human beings, until the end of time.

I was born in Wieszniev. Half of the townspeople came to Israel. The other half perished.



After the war, I learned that on Sunday August 30th, a dark dawn had come upon my hometown. The Nazis who had seized it ordered the Jews to pack their belongings and present themselves at their doorsteps.

The SS officers passed by striking them and told them to proceed towards the synagogue.

One of them cried out „Jews, save yourselves!” The Germans shot down those who tried to escape. The rest reached the synagogue which was made of wood. The doors were locked. All were burned alive.

That was the last day of Rabbi Zvi Meltzer, my grandfather, my mentor. He was consumed by fire with his Tallit on his head.

That was the last Jewish day in Wieszniev.

Not even a single Jew remained alive.

I visited Wieszniev after the war. Not a Jewish mark remains. Not a house, not a synagogue, not a school, not a cemetery, only a heap of stones.

As I stood there, the last Kol Nidrei prayer emitted by my grandfather’s sweet voice rang in my ears.

My lips murmured the Kadish.

Tonight many holocaust survivors are present, along with the children of those villages who built the new Israel.

The Nazis created industries of death, assembly lines of murder, choking gas plants.

No such thing has ever happened in history.

So organized, so systematic, so inhumane.

It happened in Europe, the epitome of enlightenment. It originated in Germany which claimed to be the spearhead in culture.  But it was all vain.

The Jews in Germany improved its culture, elevated its scientific level, enriched its economy , like all of Europe’s’ Jewry.

Why did Hitler identify them as his greatest enemy?

The answer is clear-  the moral strength of the Jews was more dangerous to him than the military menace of his neighbors.

The Nazis feared that the Jewish conviction that all men are born in the image of God would damage the fascist lie according to which there is a superior race.

They feared the prophetic vision may dent the Nazi sword.

I am proud to be an arch enemy to the Nazi evil.

I am proud of our fathers’ legacy being absolutely opposed to racism.

I am proud of our belief that there is no one Man superior to another Man.

There is no superior race, only deep roots.

I am certain that this is how our children and grandchildren will be brought up; as the Kadish is on their lips, „Love your neighbor as yourself” is in their hearts.

My friends, a million and a half Israeli citizens are not Jewish.

We are obligated to make sure that none of them are ever discriminated because of their nationality or religion. This is the essence of the existence of the State of Israel. Israel is a defense shield, a safe haven and a great spirit. Had the State of Israel existed during those days, I am convinced that things would have been different. We have paid a high price but we have not lost faith.

We have gathered unusual capacities which emerged from the depths of the Holocaust and from the peaks of our legacy. We have a commitment towards the betterment of the world and respect for humanity.

The strengths of our nation is concealed in its history and contained in the souls of its sons. We used to be a question mark, now we are a strong country. Today humanity has no choice, we must learn from the lessons of the Holocaust and stand strong against existential threats before it is too late.

Iran is at the heart of this threat. She is the center of terror, she represents a threat to world peace.


There is no reason to undermine Israel’s capacities to face this threat, whether visible or hidden.

We have engendered a young generation with wide shoulders to carry the load.  They are more than capable of leading Israel to its historic destiny following the Ten Commandments, Yavneh and its Sages, and Isaiah’s prophecy.


We will say Kadish in memory of our brothers, sisters, parents and children who were killed in martyrdom. And we will ensure our children remain Jewish, body and soul, as they carry the load of Israel’s security and the peace of the Jewish Nation is on their shoulders.

We came today to say Kadish in memory of our beloved ones who were killed in the Holocaust. We came to say and to swear „Never again”. We came to say that we are a peaceful people who can defend itself.

We can and we will.

We have built and we shall build.

We will always remember our 6 million brothers who perished in the Holocaust.

In one week we will raise the flags of Israel’s Independence which rose for the first time 64 years ago. Today, it is clear that the reality we have built is the vision we once dreamed. We will proudly wave the flags of the future of Israel, as an independent, moral, creative and contributing state. Let us wave the flags of peace, security and brotherhood.