The year 2018 marks three important milestones for Israel and the Jewish people – the seventieth anniversary of the establishment of the Jewish State, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the thirtieth anniversary of the first March of the Living journey. Since its inception in 1988, the March of the Living has brought together students, Holocaust survivors, educators, cultural influencers and leaders from around the world to Poland to preserve and protect the memories of the Holocaust and its victims.
This year, I am honored to lead a delegation of United Nations ambassadors, along with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, to revisit history’s darkest chapters by walking hand-in-hand from Auschwitz to Birkenau alongside thousands of others – young and old, religious and secular, Jewish and non-Jewish, students and survivors. Together, these witnesses will then travel in solidarity to Israel to celebrate the rebirth and reclaiming of our thriving Jewish state.
With the number of Holocaust survivors dwindling by the day, the world has fewer witnesses than ever to recall and reveal the atrocities of years past. That is why it is our responsibility to expand the pool of witnesses as far and wide as we can. We need these witnesses to be armed with the truth and ready to rise up against evil when it rears its ugly head.
On this year’s March of the Living, we will expand the community of witnesses to this delegation of UN ambassadors. These leading diplomats will witness the grounds upon which the bodies and spirits of six million Jews, from twenty-nine countries, including over a million Jewish children, turned to ashes. They will witness the evidence of stripped identities, stolen hearts, minds and souls, and the remains of individuals degraded to the numbers tattooed on their arms.
A few years ago, I had the honor of joining a delegation representing the government of Israel on International Holocaust Memorial Day in Auschwitz- Birkenau. It was devastating to see the actual sites of these horrors for the first time. But then I returned to Israel. Back home as the Deputy Minister of Defense of a strong and independent Jewish state, I was heartened. No longer would our people need to run away in the face of danger. Instead, we could return, at any time, to what was, is and always will be our rightful home.
I have chosen to lead United Nations ambassadors to the satanic remains of Auschwitz-Birkenau to remind them what they are fighting for every day. The United Nations was established precisely to ensure that the greatest tragedy known to mankind will never recur, and the representatives who gather in its chambers must be the bearers of that moral duty. They have an even greater responsibility to defend the truth amidst the dangerous attempts to distort and rewrite it over the past few months.
I have also chosen to guide these ambassadors from Poland to Israel so that they can witness the special and unbreakable force of unity that binds together the people of Israel and Jews everywhere. They will stand with us as we commemorate our fallen soldiers on Yom Ha’zikaron, and rejoice with us as we celebrate seventy years of Israel’s independence on Yom Ha’atzmaut the following day. They will become witnesses to the tragedies that befell our nation, and they will see how we rebuilt our dignity by turning Israel into a light among the nations.
Elie Wiesel once taught that when you listen to a witness, you become a witness. It is my goal to transform every ambassador to the United Nations into a witness to the Holocaust, capable of preserving the haunting memories of its victims and survivors. When we turn the candles of remembrance into guiding lights for the future, document the stories and preserve the memories, we will know what to do in the face of danger, so that tragedies like the Holocaust will forever be contained in history.
Danny Danon is Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations