President of Russia, Mr. Vladimir Putin spent more than four hours at the Jewish Tolerance Museum in the Marina Roscha neighborhood of Moscow, commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although the original date was last Shabbos, he postponed it in order not to cause desecration of Shabbos.
While at the museum together with its founder, Chief Rabbi of Russia Rabbi Berel Lazar, the president of Russia was shown the site where a special monument will be built in memory of the Ghetto rebels (may G-d avenge their blood). Its cornerstone was brought from the village of Lubavitch, from the death valley where more than one thousand Jews were murdered by the Nazis during second World War.
From there he continued on to inaugurate a special new exhibition marking the 75th anniversary to the uprising of the “Sobibor” concentration camp.
Later he participated in the official ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, with the participation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, dozens of ambassadors from all over the world, war veterans, and Holocaust survivors.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who wanted to meet with Mr. Putin, was invited to do so at the Jewish Tolerance Museum. In fact, prior to the ceremony, the two had a private meeting in one of the museum’s rooms which was allotted to them for this. At the conclusion of their meeting they came out to join the official ceremony which began with the “Keil malei rachamim” prayer recited by the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar.
The ceremony was emceed by the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Rabbi Alexander Boroda. Speeches were delivered by President Putin, Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as the granddaughter of one of the Jewish fighters in the Red Army. Her grandfather was one of the liberators of the concentration camps, and saved thousands of his fellow Jews.
Before reciting the prayer, the Chief Rabbi spoke as follows:
The world has just commemorated a special date – Holocaust Remembrance Day. During these days we remember the terrible massacre of six million Jews, simply because they were born Jewish.
There is a reason that we don’t commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day on the date when the pogroms and killing began, but on the day when the Red Army liberated the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz. This date is an opportunity for us to thank the victorious soldiers, who helped our people survive.
Every year we take more than one thousand of our young Jewish students to visit Auschwitz. We show it to them so that they should remember. And every time they raise the following question “But what about all of the people who lived in the surrounding area? They saw and smelled the smoke rising from the gas chambers on a daily basis. Did they know and not feel any responsibility?!”
Sadly, the question has remained unanswered to this day.
Holocaust Remembrance – remembering those who perished, and appreciating those who liberated – requires us to take an unequivocal stand here. Those who saw, knew, and did nothing – also bear their share of responsibility, even if they don’t have blood on their hands.
Let us not forget that this is the mission of every religion. Mutual help, mutual respect, love of others – all this constitutes the basis of faith in G-d! These are eternal values – they have helped mankind survive and develop over the years, and these days it is especially important to understand that it is our duty to preserve those values.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said:
“I greatly appreciate this invitation and your personal support, in this place and on this day, which reflects our common struggle against the greatest evil that humanity has ever known, at the terrible price of six million of my people, along with the twenty million Russian people who perished. We remember the heroism of the Red Army in achieving victory over the Nazis.
We saw here a very moving show documenting the Sobibor Uprising, in which a Jewish officer from the Red Army went against all odds and led the uprising which succeeded and ultimately led them to their freedom”, Netanyahu said.
Photos: Levi Nazarov