Lessons of Holocaust Still Not Learned, Survivors Say

July 7, 2008 - 8:16 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Rising anti-Semitism is an indication that the world still has not learned the lessons of the Holocaust, survivors here for the opening of the new Holocaust museum said on Tuesday.

Holocaust survivors as well as presidents and government ministers from some 40 countries are in Jerusalem this week for the inauguration of the new Holocaust History Museum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.

But Rebbetzin (title for a rabbi's wife) Esther Jungreis, who runs an organization called Hineni for Jewish students in the U.S., said that while the Jewish people triumphed over the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is as bad today as it was when she was a child.

"Anti-Semitism, and racism and hatred are growing around the world...Anti-Semitism is escalating and we have not learned the lesson of the Holocaust," said Jungreis. "I see anti-Semitism today as I saw it when I was a young child."

Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in Europe and elsewhere since the outbreak of the Palestinian armed conflict against Israel more than four years ago.

Jungreis, who is a member of the delegation representing President Bush at the events here this week, is a survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She was 17 years old when she and her family were deported from Hungary to the camp.

"I must tell you that the very fact that I a child from Bergen-Belsen am standing here in Jerusalem, it has to give you goose bumps," Jungreis told reporters in Jerusalem.

She used the Hebrew word Hineni , which means "here am I," and was the response of Biblical prophets to the call of God, to describe her existence.

It is "mind boggling" that the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after 2000 years of all the evil they suffered, Jungreis said.

"The average person today never considers what it was like in those days of darkness. They forget; they don't understand it. So Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is a testimony of the triumph of the Jewish spirit," she said.

"There is no other nation that could have done this. It was only by the help of the Almighty God that we survived this evil," Jungreis said. "But...we didn't survive it, we triumphed over it."

Jungreis challenged the West to do some "soul-searching" because, she said, it was the "most delightful nation in the world" that perpetrated the Holocaust and it was the lawyers, doctors and scientists who orchestrated it, she said.

Elie Wiesel, one of the most famous survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp, is also a member of the U.S. delegation, led by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. Wiesel spoke at the inaugural ceremony at Yad Vashem on Tuesday evening.

Wiesel said that many people say that the Holocaust was "man's inhumanity to man" but it was not. "It was man's inhumanity to Jews," he said.

"We never tried to tell the tale to make people weep; we didn't want pity," Wiesel said. "We decided to tell the tale...so the world will be a better world."

Nevertheless, Wiesel said that 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz there is still anti-Semitism and there are suicide bombers. He related the situation to characters in the works of the famous Jewish writer Franz Kafka, who had a miserable character in his stories who tried to deliver a message but no one paid attention.

Speaking at a dinner following the ceremony, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said that the wave of anti-Semitism in the world is the worst since World War II.

The Jewish people thought that anti-Semitism would "never raise its head again," Katsav said, but once again there are attacks on synagogues and cemeteries.

Nevertheless, Katsav commended those European leaders who had reacted against anti-Semitism and denounced attacks against Israel. "Europe is now another Europe," he said.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan mentioned that the universal charter on human rights had been set up in response to the Holocaust and said that the world could not "stand silent against racism and discrimination."

The 4200-square meter museum will replace the older museum at the 25-acre memorial site. It is designed to tell the story of the Holocaust from the victim's - the Jewish - perspective.

Nevertheless, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said that this week's event delivers two important messages.

First of all that 40 nations are standing here in Jerusalem in memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and against anti-Semitism but also that German dictator Adolf Hitler did not succeed in wiping out the Jewish people, Regev said.

"Today Israel is a thriving successful state," Regev said. "Israel is the answer to the Holocaust."

By coming here, the nations are identifying with the "Jewish past" but also "with the Jewish future, which is Israel," he added.

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