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Throughout the world, the Jewish people have just finished celebrating Passover, the holiday that marks the exodus from Egypt, the deliverance from slavery. But today on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day we commemorate a dark period in the history of the Jewish people, a time when exodus was refused, when the doors of refuge were closed. We are approaching a time when the Holocaust survivor population is dwindling with each passing day and as the last generation who will be able to hear their direct testimony; it is our responsibility to preserve their memories, stories and the lessons taught by history. As Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel famously said, for the dead and for the living we must bear witness”. It goes without saying that we need to honor the memory of those who perished but we also have a commitment to the survivors to keep alive the memory of the past. Our pledge is more than “NEVER AGAIN” it is also “NEVER FORGET.” WIZO is also committed to keeping alive the memory of the past through education. In our daycare centers, schools and youth villages, we teach each new generation the story of the Holocaust. All WIZO chaverot also keep this pledge when privately; within their own hearts and families, they remember.

By remembering the past we can transform the future but to do so we need to move from memory to action. A wonderful example to illustrate this is an initiative taken by a group of Israelis in their mid-twenties who felt detached and looked for a way to give new meaning to the memory of the Holocaust. These young people will get together in about 20 private homes throughout Israel to discuss different aspects and issues related to this somber day of commemoration. Holocaust survivors will be invited to give their personal testimony. In this way they are keeping their commitment “NEVER TO FORGET”.

The story of the Jewish people has been one of exile, destruction and rebirth. From the ashes of the Holocaust emerged the miracle of the State of Israel and the survivors began a new life. The tenacity of the Jewish people and its immense will for survival is symbolized by the heartwarming story of a new tree a few weeks ago, in advance of the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day Yad Vashemat which was planted. This was no ordinary sapling as it was a sprouted from a chestnut tree that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary and it was donated by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to Yad Vashem and other institutions when the original tree became sick and collapsed in 2010. The sapling was planted near the Childrens Memorial and International School for Holocaust Studies, in the presence of Hanna Pick, Holocaust survivor and childhood friend of Anne Frank.

As Ahad Haam, the Hebrew essayist, and one of the foremost pre-state Zionist thinkers stated “A nation without a past cannot move on to its future”.

With best wishes,

Janine Gelley

Chairperson, Division of Organization & Tourism

World WIZO Executive

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