Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, today (Sunday, 16 July 2017), together with – and at the invitation of – French President Emmanuel Macron, participated in a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the deportation of French Jews to the extermination camps during the Holocaust. Attending the ceremony were hundreds of invited guests and Holocaust survivors including Noah Kliger and his wife, who were specially invited by the Prime Minister. Kliger (92) is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Strasbourg.
Prime Minister Netanyahu :
"Mr. President, my friend Emmanuel Macron, and all the distinguished people that are assembled here, the Mayor of France, our respective ambassadors, the heads of the Jewish community, the witnesses, those who've worked so hard to bear witness. I want to thank you for inviting me to join you today to honor the memory of the Jews who were dispatched from this place to the death camps.
We've heard stirring testimonies, heart-rending testimonies. They were incinerated into smoke and dust. Four thousand here, children. To get a scale of the Holocaust, what happened here on that day in the heart of Paris, multiply it by 400 times, 400 Parises, and you will get the scale, the enormous scale of the destruction of European Jewry, the destruction of our children.
I've come here today from Jerusalem, the eternal united capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. I've come here to bow my head in memory of our slain brothers and sisters, slaughtered solely because they were Jews. I've come here to mourn with you the victims. My wife Sara, who's with us, lost her entire family in the Holocaust. We all come to mourn together the victims, but at the same time to proudly declare: Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel lives!
Seventy-five years ago, a heavy darkness descended on this City of Lights. The Nazis, yes, the Nazis and their collaborators in France, and Jacques Chirac and successive presidents deserve much credit for telling the truth. They shattered the lives of thousands of French Jews at Vel’ d’Hiv. It seems that the values of the French Revolution – liberty, equality and fraternity – these values were crushed brutally under the boot of antisemitism. Yet we must say, and we heard it today as well, we must say that not all was dark.
And, on behalf of the State of Israel, on behalf of the Jewish people, I salute the noble French citizens, who at great risk to their own lives, saved their Jewish compatriots. We will always remember with profound gratitude and admiration the heroic residents of places like Chambon-sur-Lignon, who saved thousands of Jews. This is a special heroism. We have known in Israel a lot of heroism, as have you here in France. This is different heroism. There is heroism in battle, in pitting one's life to save others. But the heroism of the people who saved Jews involved putting their families at risk, putting their children, their wives, their husbands, at the risk of execution.
We will never forget, never, these great human beings, Chasidei Umot Ha'Olam, the Righteous Among the Nations. They give us a map and a compass for charting the course of humanity.
After the horrific Second World War, France built itself anew to a thriving successful democracy of enterprise and culture. So did the Jews of France. For many, Simone Weil symbolized this rebirth. Simone bore the number 78651 on her arm, as a permanent reminder of her suffering in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. As a minister in successive French governments, as President of the European Parliament, Simone Weil vanquished her persecutors. So did the Jewish people.
Out of the ash of destruction, we established the Jewish State. And it is the strength of Israel that is the one certain guarantee that the Jewish people will never undergo a Holocaust again. Never again. We will never let it happen again.
Mr. President, my friends,
We have come here with survivors of this persecution, like Mr. Noah Kliger, who is with us. He's over 90 years old. He is here in a wheelchair. He is here because he and we have learned the timeless lessons that discrimination and persecution often starts with the Jews, but it never ends there.
Recently, we have witnessed a rise of extremist forces that seek to destroy not only the Jews and of course the Jewish state as well, but well beyond that. They wish to destroy anyone that stands in their way – Jews, Christians, Muslims, who suffer the brunt of their savagery.
Monsieur le President,
Two days ago in Nice, you said that this was a war of civilizations. I fully agree. Militant Islam wants to destroy our common civilization. The militant Shiites led by Iran, the militant Sunnis led by ISIS – both seek to vanquish us. They seek to destroy Europe.
It may not be obvious today, but it is completely obvious for anyone who listens to what they say, what they preach, what they teach their disciples, what they teach their children. They must vanquish, overcome, subdue, and ultimately eliminate European civilization. Israel is merely the first Western target that stands in their way. Militant Islamists do not hate the West because of Israel. To the contrary, they hate Israel because of the West, because they rightly see in Israel a forward bastion of our common values of freedom, humanism, democracy. They try to destroy us, but also they try to destroy you, and France is a leading power in the world, a leading democracy, so it is not being spared either. In Nice, in Paris, in Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray and elsewhere, savage terrorists brutally murdered French citizens. They have also targeted French Jews in Toulouse, in the Hyper Cacher here in Paris, and recently, with the horrific murder of Sarah Halimi of blessed memory.
You stand boldly and proudly against this scourge. You clearly condemn and fight antisemitism, and you clearly condemn and fight this larger militancy that seeks to destroy our world.
I was deeply impressed by the fact that your first visit abroad was to Mali where this cancerous plague is trying to consume the heart of Africa and from there, expand elsewhere.
Monsieur le President,
Your struggle is our struggle. The zealots of militant Islam, who seek to destroy you, seek to destroy us as well. We must stand against them together; we must remain strong against them together; and we must defeat them together. For the sacred honor of those who perished here, for the sake of generations to come, let us ensure victory – the victory of liberté, egalité, fraternité.
Let us remember the past, let us secure tomorrow."
Also speaking at the ceremony were CRIF President Francis Kalifat; Rafael Esrail, the head of the organization of those who were deported to Auschwitz; Sons and Daughters of Jewish Deportees from France President Serge Klarsfeld and Vel d'Hiv survivor Rachel Jedinak.
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