Ada Holtzman

Address on behalf of the "Successor generation" at the Holocaust day meeting, at the Treblinka Martyrs' Memorial in Nachlat Itzhak Cemetery

Givata'iim - Israel, 23.4.98

I am standing here today, a representative of the "successor generation", a sabra born in Kibbutz Evron in Western Galilee, daughter of Rywcia and Meir Holcman from the town of Gombin in Poland, who lost 13 beloved cousins, 16 uncles and aunts, a grandfather and a grandmother and even a great-grandfather, Mosiek Gostinski, aged 80, whose life the Nazi butchers also didn't spare. I am standing and tears are choking my throat and I swear I'll never forget!

I remember, when I was a little girl, my mother of blessed memory, Rywcia, returned home all excited and agitated and for quite a while, nothing could calm her: "They caught Eichmann!" As far back as that, a mere kid, I realized that something terrible had happened to my family and to my people, and that it was fairly recently, not in some distant, mythical past, something that would leave its permanent imprint on my generation.

Part of the survivors are still alive, walk among us, plagued by nightmares and anxieties.
The German criminals as well are still around in their prosperous villages in the "Other Germany", enjoying their generous pensions, while their remnant victims walk around like shadows in our land, struggling for their rights and very survival.

Holocaust deniers crop up everywhere. The internet bristles with provocations and disgusting lies. In my travels to Poland I still encountered everywhere anti-Semitic graffiti, and the Star of David is again hanging from the gallows - and no one utters a word of protest. Therefore, before the story of the Shoa and the bitter lessons to be learned from it are forgotten on some shelf of history books, before the last witness disappears from among us, we must not stop acting for the preservation of the memory. Because the future is concealed in the past and therefore we must do something about it...

We didn't know and certainly didn't understand the burden of sadness and pain weighing on my parents shoulders. A bleeding wound which never healed. They were a generation of pioneers, inspired by Zionist strivings of building here their home, of creating a new, better society in our old-new homeland. A home for the Jewish nation and a more just society for man as a human being. It was a generation enthused with the idea of survival and upbuilding of the Jewish Land. Even the joy at the miracle of the State's birth was tempered by the mourning, the bereavement, the unbearable pain which cannot and never will be relieved. That is how we grew up, always touched by pain, notwithstanding the reticence of our parents, who tried to protect us by hardly ever mentioning the tortures they had gone through.

We, who grew up in a free Jewish State, could not understand how six million souls could have been taken to the slaughterhouse. How the German nation, a nation of culture and poetry, a nation of music and philosophy, could have bred from among it a monster, embraced and worshipped it, followed it and turned into a nation of heinous murderers, engulfing a whole continent in blood, tears and infinite pain. How an entire country, Poland, could have been turned into a giant slaughterhouse, the killing fields, while the whole world just stood by... except for a handful of just Gentiles, the Righteous among the nations, whom we shall never forget either.

How the inhabitants of an entire town, the town of Gombin, women and men, oldsters and children, were rounded up for three days and nights in the fire brigade square, without food and water, than with blows and pistol shorts were pushed into satanic gas vans, cries "Shema Yisroel", darkness...

The brain does not grasp and the heart refuses to believe. Were the murderers, too, born of mothers? How will we ever be able to understand? How could we ever have visualized such total destruction? It is simply impossible. But may be we can visualize lovely Channale and Perla, Eli, Andzya and Szajna, Channa, Eli, Hela and Channa, Elja-Chaim Rutka Bajla and Perla... We see them clearly among the tears... They were all my cousins, little Bnai Gombin...

They were all my generation, innocent children without graves and their ashes are scattered in the fields of Chelmno, Auschwitz, Treblinka, Maydanek, Stutthof, Bergen Belsen, Belzec... floating in the rivers of Poland restless, without a tomb, filling the endless mass graves hidden in the forests of that land.

And what was their guilt? That they were born Jews. That is the lesson we should never forget! There, on that other planet, only about fifty years ago, they did not distinguish between left and right, between secular and observant, between the khassidim and the people of the intelligentsia, between folks from Saloniki or from Lodz, between the simple man and the great rabbi, between the Zionist Khalutz or the Bund activist, between the Betar members or Ha'Shomer Ha'tzaiir socialists...
There, everybody with Jewish blood in his veins shared a common fate.

Therefore now, after 2000 years of exile, now that we have a country of our own; now, when in about a week's time we'll celebrate the State's 50th birthday, let's unite and work together and jointly in all fields of society and culture. Let's remember on what foundation the Jewish State was established and what a horrible price we paid for our independence. Let's guard this state like the apple of our eye. We haven't got another country and let's always remember how bitter was our fate when we didn't have a state.
Let's avoid internal quarrels and destructive struggles. Let's fight extremism and racism in all their forms and let's develop equality of rights for the minorities and the weak among us.

We are met here today in order to observe a ceremony of communion and remembrance, but a one survivor once said on the radio - "What we need is not one day to remember, but one day to forget..."

From this stage I appeal to spare no effort for commemoration of the Holocaust and its victims:

to learn and to teach,
to act and to activate,
to listen and make your voice heard,
to be careful and to warn,
to cry out and to alert,
to remember and to remind ...

No one else will do it for us. This is our duty and also our right, we the successor generation, we who were born with a burden of sadness and pain on our shoulders. We are the vengeance and our children are the consolation...

We won't forgive and we won't forget!

 


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