An estimated 2,700 Israelis who survived Auschwitz convened here Sunday to commemorate the liberation of the Nazis’ most notorious death camp 50 years ago this week.
But the solemn national remembrance of the end of Adolf Hitler’s largest killing factory was shattered by the latest attack against Jews - the terrorist bombings at a crowded bus stop north of Tel Aviv that killed 19 Israelis and injured 65, most of them soldiers.
“Even today, as we stand here, the shadow of death hovers among us,” were the words in a speech Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was to have delivered at Yad Vashem, Israel’s poignant national shrine to the 6 million Jews killed in the European Holocaust.
Rabin wasn’t there to deliver the speech, however, because he had rushed to Beit Lid to survey the carnage of the two terrorist bombs set off to kill Israelis and the peace process.
“Those who pursue us are not yet gone. Even today we lost beloved children. Even today death has afflicted us. Even today they are trying to harm our lives here and the chances for peace,” read the speech, delivered on Rabin’s behalf by Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein.
“To our enemies, to those who kill us, we say: ‘A thousand car bombs will not overpower us. We will continue to build a home here. We will continue to establish peace - and we will continue to crush you, to strike you, to kill you. We will be victorious over you.”’
Dozens of Auschwitz survivors were present at Yad Vashem for ceremonies marking the anniversary of their deliverance, along with the dedication of a new cattle-car monument commemorating the Nazi deportations of Jews from all over Europe to the Third Reich’s death camps, gas chambers and crematoria.
The stark monument consists of a freight car from the “German Railroad Service” that came from Poland and was used to carry Jews to the slaughter.
The rail car is placed high on a trestle that ends abruptly, as if it is about to plunge over into an abyss. It is a powerful reminder of where such cars carried their human cargo: Some 1 million Jews were gassed, shot, starved or tortured to death at Auschwitz.
As the monument was being dedicated at Yad Vashem, across town at a convention center in Jerusalem about 2,700 Auschwitz survivors who live in Israel met again to sign a register and inscribe their tattoo numbers in a special book in their first such gathering.
But both ceremonies were overshadowed by the bombings in Beit Lid and the latest killings of Jews.