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Israeli President Herzog commends Warsaw Ghetto Uprising heroes at 80th anniversary ceremony in Poland

Herzog: 'As great as the threat is, so too is the common front that we must form against it’

Israeli President Isaac Herzog speaking at the 80th Anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ceremony in Warsaw, Poland, Apr. 19, 2023 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Poland hosted presidents, Holocaust survivors and their families on Wednesday in a ceremony that marks 80 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. 

Hundreds of young Jews took up arms on April 19, 1943 – the eve of the Passover holy day – refusing to surrender to a Nazi order to burn down the ghetto block by block. They stood up to evil, determined not to allow the Nazis to pick the time and place of their deaths. 

By the end of the uprising on May 16, a total of 13,000 Jews had been killed. According to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, “They won.”  

In his speech, which took place close to where the death warrant of 300,000 Polish Jews was sealed, Herzog quoted a woman he said he has admired his entire life – Zivia Lubetkin, one of the leaders of the Jewish Combat Organization in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. 

Lubetkin survived the Holocaust and immigrated to British Mandatory Palestine at the age of 32.  

“We had no chance of victory in battle,” she recalled. “It was clear to us that we had no chance of victory, in the usual sense of the word. But we knew that, at the end of the day, we would emerge victorious. We are the weak ones. But our strength lay in this: We believed in justice. We believed in humanity.” 

The Israeli president called the audience to form a common front against existing threats. 

“When we stand here together, in the heart of one of the loftiest symbols of both the Holocaust and heroism, we remember that as great as the threat is, so too is the common front that we must form against it,” Herzog said.

Herzog has hailed the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising as “the emblem of heroism during humanity’s darkest hour.” 

The Jewish heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto fought against all odds, he said, drawing their strength from “the heroic streak that runs like a thread through Jewish history, from King David’s brave men to the warriors of Masada, Bar Kokhba and the Maccabees.”

“They were not alone,” Herzog said. “With them, in a heroic battle against the Nazis and their accomplices, in every country, were the Righteous Among the Nations and members of the local resistance movements.”

Herzog referenced the Bible again when he described how it felt to stand in a place where Jewish hope and faith faced challenges the likes of which humanity had never known. 

“I cannot help but imagine the daughters and sons of my people, ‘beloved and pleasant in their lives, and in their deaths never divided’ (II Samuel 1:23),” Herzog said, a reference to David and Jonathan. 

Herzog thanked Polish President Andrzej Duda for his “colossal efforts” and commitment to the task of remembrance and commemoration of the Holocaust. 

“We must remember: There is nothing postmodern or relativistic about Holocaust remembrance. Absolute evil existed, in the form of the Nazis and their accomplices. And absolute good existed, in the form of the victims and the rebels, from every nation. And in passing this heritage down to posterity, it must reflect this indisputable axiom,” Herzog stressed. 

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who attended the ceremony, said: “I stand before you today and bow to the courageous fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto ... I bow to the dead in deep sorrow.”

Click here to read Herzog's full speech.

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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