Videos: strong speeches at world’s biggest ever Holocaust commemoration today, as German president speaks in Hebrew

January 23, 2020

Yisrael Meir Lau (who had just turned 8) in the arms of fellow Buchenwald survivor Elazar Schiff, who helped him reach Israel, at their arrival at Haifa on July 15, 1945. Lau’s speech today is below or here



[Note by Tom Gross]

There were some important speeches at today’s World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

I attach videos of some of them below. They are short so you may want to make time to watch them.

If you only have time to watch one, I suggest you watch the last one, delivered in a heartfelt way without notes by former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau.

Lau was liberated aged 7, in April 1945, by the 89th Infantry Division of the United States army, having already lost both his parents in the Holocaust.

He was the only Holocaust survivor speaking today to the dozens of assembled presidents, prime ministers, kings and princes and in effect he is speaking for the 6 million. (In fact, research and newly opened archives since the fall of communism in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union mean that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust is much closer to 7 million.)


This dispatch is a follow-up to Tuesday’s dispatch:

The Last Survivors of Auschwitz (& ‘I Have a Message for You’)


US Vice President Mike Pence


Russian President Vladimir Putin


Britain’s Prince Charles


German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

He speaks in Hebrew at the start and end of his speech.


Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau

You can watch the video here



Tom Gross writes:

Previous Nazi camps had already been liberated, starting with Majdanek, freed by the Red Army on July 24, 1944.

But Russian, Polish, French and British officials didn’t want any public knowledge of the camps to be made, or photos released, so as (supposedly) not to alarm people, and strict censorship was imposed.

It was only after US forces arrived in Buchenwald on April 6, 1945 (where Yisrael Lau was imprisoned) and the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe, Dwight Eisenhower, visited the camp on April 12, that he said these “conditions of indescribable horror” must be made public, and he ordered all censorship of Nazi atrocities lifted.

Later that month, on April 20, 1945, the BBC radio correspondent Richard Dimbleby accompanying British and Canadian forces into Belsen, said in his report: “This day when we reached Belsen was the most horrible day of my life”:

“Here over an acre of ground lay dead and dying people. You could not see which was which... The living lay with their heads against the corpses and around them moved the awful, ghostly procession of emaciated, aimless people, with nothing to do and with no hope of life, unable to move out of your way, unable to look at the terrible sights around them ... Babies had been born here, tiny wizened things that could not live ... A mother, driven mad, screamed at a British sentry to give her milk for her child, and thrust the tiny mite into his arms, then ran off, crying terribly. He opened the bundle and found the baby had been dead for days. This day at Belsen was the most horrible of my life.”

The last of the dozens of Nazi camps to be liberated was Theresienstadt (Terezin) north of Prague, when Soviet forces arrived on May 8, 1945, over a week after Hitler was dead and Berlin occupied. It could have been liberated earlier and lives of prisoners would have been saved, but American forces (on the order of President Roosevelt in agreement with Stalin) deliberately stopped in Plzen in the west of Czechoslovakia to allow the Red Army time to move westwards and take over the country. (Several members of my own family were imprisoned in Terezin before being killed there or taken on in packed cattle trains to be murdered in other camps.)


The bodies of prisoners in Buchenwald (where Rabbi Lau was liberated from as a 7 year old child), 16 April 1945


U.S. Senator Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky looks on after Buchenwald’s liberation


Belsen death camp


Memorial for Margot and Anne Frank at the former Bergen-Belsen site<



US Vice President Mike Pence
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
President of France Emmanuel Macron
President of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen
Governor-General of Canada Julie Payette
Governor-General of Australia David Hurley
President of Russia Vladimir Putin
Prince Charles of Britain
King of the Netherlands Willem-Alexander
King Felipe VI of Spain
King Philippe of Belgium
President of Italy Sergio Mattarella
President of Slovenia Borut Pahor
President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier
President of Hungary János Áder
President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos
Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven
President of Iceland Guđni Th. Jóhannesson
President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades
President of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda
Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen
President of Finland Sauli Niinistö
President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev
President of Romania Klaus Iohannis
President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babiš
President of Albania Ilir Meta
President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian
President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili
Speaker of the Latvian Parliament Ināra Mūrniece
President of Moldova Igor Dodon
Minister of State of Monaco Serge Telle
Chairman of the House of Representatives of Belarus
President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić
President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Željko Komšić
Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg
President of North Macedonia Stevo Pendarovski
President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović
President of the European Council Charles Michel
President of the European Parliament David Sassoli
Vatican Representative Kurt Koch



There has been widespread criticism in Israel of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who while already in Jerusalem, dramatically pulled out of today’s ceremony just before it started.

“It is a pity for the Ukrainian government to take such a step in an event called ‘Remember the Holocaust to fight anti-Semitism’,” Yad Vashem said in a statement.

Zelensky claimed that his seat could now go to a Holocaust survivor but Yad Vashem dismissed this as compounding the insult to survivors, since Zelensky knew full well that with people already in place, it was much too late to suddenly have an elderly survivor make it to the event in time.

The most comprehensive survey of attitudes to anti-Semitism carried out globally in 2019, by the Anti-Defamation League, found that 46 percent of Ukrainian respondents expressed anti-Semitic views, the second most antisemitic country in the world after Poland at 48 percent.

Ukraine, along with Croatia and Lithuania, were the countries where the population most eagerly participated in the German/Austrian-led murder and torture of European Jews.

See also:

And: “Ukraine city to hold festival in honor of Nazi collaborator whose troops killed thousands of Jews” in this dispatch:

My aunt had a dinner party, and then she took her guests to kill 180 Jews



A statement from the office of the mild-mannered Israeli President Reuven Rivlin strongly criticized western media, including the BBC, for repeating the lies of the Polish prime minister that the Polish president would not be allowed to speak in Jerusalem.

Poland has a right-wing nationalist government, engaged in severe Holocaust distortion at home.

Polish President Andrzej Duda was repeatedly promised he would be given a prominent platform to speak in Jerusalem, said the statement from President Rivlin’s office.

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said that the forum is not about the details of World War II, it is about remembering the Holocaust and combating antisemitism. He implored Duda to “stand shoulder and shoulder with other world leaders against antisemitism.”


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.