World ORT ceremonies at Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau


06 June 2008 World ORT ceremonies at Warsaw Ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau World ORT General Assembly delegates and guests participated in profoundly moving commemorations of the Holocaust at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial and at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Following a tour of Jewish sites in the Polish capital, including the unveiling of a plaque at the Janusz Korczak orphanage noting World ORTs work at the institution, more than 600 people including 200 delegates from 32 countries gathered at the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising memorial. Flanked by an IDF honour guard and with searchlights casting their beams into the sky, Sir Maurice Hatter, in one of his last duties before retiring as President of World ORT, addressed the crowd. He reminded them how World ORT workshops operating until the dying days of the Ghetto provided a life-prolonging refuge for many people. Here in this place they broke our bodies, they murdered our men, women and children, but they did not destroy the essence of our people. Our presence here today is living proof that the Jewish people has been blessed by God and is built to survive, Sir Maurice said. And it is organisations like World ORT that help it to survive; and not only survive but to flourish and be strong, he added. Our generation was given the responsibility to build on the rubble of the greatest tragedy that has ever befallen the Jewish people. We responded by building the State of Israel and creating vibrant Diaspora communities. For World ORT, our contribution has been to establish a powerful worldwide network of schools and education centres where young people and adults can learn skills that will enable them to lead full, dignified lives. After the lighting of the memorial flame, Israels Ambassador to Poland, David Peleg, addressed the crowd, some of whom had been moved to tears. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the first case of Jewish self-defence, Ambassador Peleg said. Theres a direct link between this and the formation of the Israel Defence Force. The fact that there are officers of the IDF present brings to mind what would have happened if the State of Israel had been established 10 years earlier. Most probably the fate of European Jewry would have been very different. The Deputy Mayor of Warsaw, Wlodzimierz Paszynski, also addressed the ceremony saying that the Polish people wanted to be a positive part of the Jewish and Israeli future after centuries of co-existence ended so tragically. We are honoured that World ORT chose Warsaw as the venue for its General Assembly, he said, and we salute Israel on its 60th anniversary. The following day Yom Yerushalayim delegates, World ORT professionals, students from World ORT schools in Eastern Europe and from Israeli schools supported by World ORTs Kadima Mada (Science Journey) programme, travelled by train from Warsaw to Auschwitz-Birkenau. A tour of the notorious camp culminated in a ceremony at the memorial erected at the end of the rail line that brought more than one million men, women and children to their agonising deaths. Wreaths were laid by the Director-General of Israels Ministry of Transport, Gideon Sitterman, on behalf of the Israeli Government, World ORT Director General Robert Singer and Mauricio Merikanskas, Chair of World ORTs Executive Committee, and World ORT students from Ukraine. Mr Sitterman made a defiant speech warning Iran and its supporters that Jews would not allow themselves to be victims again. We the living hear too well those voices calling today for our extermination the same apologetics and wording [as the Nazis], he said. No-one believed this could happen. Today we know that behind these declarations are clearly defined intentions. The wave of anti-Semitism that Iran is leading should be stopped by all means and by all nations. Mr Hilman was among many who praised the efficiency of the small, dedicated team at the World ORT Representative Office in Israel which has been implementing Kadima Mada. But, no more and never again will a Jew find himself helpless under threat; no more and never again will a Jew face humiliation and persecution just because he is a Jew; no more and never again will a Jewish mother be separated from her children; no more and never again will an alien hand be raised against a Jewish child without a response.