February 2020 -- Shevat-Adar 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 2

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Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (left) and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder Honors Holocaust Survivors

On January 27 in  Oswiecim, Poland,  on the site of former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and Chairman of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Foundation (ABMF),  rang the alarm bell on the rise of antisemitism, appealing to world leaders to advance Holocaust education before it’s too late. As part of the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, the ABMF -- under Ambassador Lauder’s leadership -- organized a survivors’ delegation of more than 100 Auschwitz-Birkenau survivors and their families from the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia, Latin America and several European countries.

 

The preceding night, Lauder and the ABMF welcomed the survivors at a dinner gathering in Krakow also attended by Jewish community delegations from around the world. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to those gathered and called the survivors “strong and incredibly courageous” and “rays of sunshine that penetrated the darkness.”

 

At the January 27 official International Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Lauder presented keynote remarks on behalf of the Pillars of Remembrance, private donors who support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation and its mission to preserve the authenticity of the memorial site. Lauder emphasized that it was the scourge of antisemitism combined with world indifference which led to the Holocaust, and urged citizens and government leaders everywhere to speak out against intolerance and hatred.

 

“Today is about you, the survivors, and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am that you are here, and in some cases, here with your children and grandchildren. Seventy-five years ago today, when Soviet troops entered these gates, they had no idea what lay behind them. And since that day, the entire world has struggled with what they found inside.” Lauder opened.

 

He continued, “When we hear something that is antisemitic, when we hear someone talk about Israel unjustly, when Jews are attacked on your streets, do not be silent. Do not be indifferent. And do not just do this for the Jewish people around the world. Do this for your children, do this for your grandchildren.”

 

Marian Turski, a Polish Auschwitz survivor who spoke during the ceremony, warned that Auschwitz “did not fall from the sky.” He said that Auschwitz and its horrors existed as a result of world indifference to antisemitism and discrimination.

After a ceremonial blowing of the shofar, Cantor David S. Wisnia, a member of the ABFM’s survivor delegation, recited the traditional Jewish memorial prayer, El Maleh Rahamim, and invited participants to join him in the Mourner’s Kaddish.