Monday, May 23, 2011

Dutch Righteous Among the Nations Honored Today

Today, a special event honoring the late Johanna (Pieterse) & Jacobus Witte as Righteous Among the Nations was held at Yad Vashem.
During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the Jewish Kalfus family decided to go into hiding, and their four-year-old son, Leopold Robert Kalfus was brought to Johanna and Jacobus. Robert was introduced as a nephew of Johanna and was treated as one of the couple's children. He slept in the attic with the two Witte sons, Cees and Jan, soon calling the Wittes Uncle Jaap and Aunt Jo. Despite increasing risk, Robert remained hidden on their farm. The Wittes looked after Robert for two years; during this period they also sheltered a downed Allied pilot.
“I am standing here in Yad Vashem, 66 years after the war. I cannot express in words the emotional turbulence I am feeling right now,” said Robert at today’s event. “I am thankful that I survived, thanks to the courage of Johanna and Jacobus. I joined the Witte family as a nephew. The hope and the love that they have showered upon me were a substitute to my lost childhood. I am happy to be here today with my children and grandchildren. I would like to thank Yad Vashem for this ceremony.”

“Johanna and Jacobus lacked for nothing,” said Amb. Michiel den Hond, Ambassador of the Netherlands in Israel, “They could choose to keep a low profile and go through the Holocaust without any danger. Instead, they took into their home a four-year-old boy, and took care of him as their own child. Even after their death, their legacy lives on. This is the outcome of being a human being even under these hard conditions.”

Robert’s son Danny expressed the family’s appreciation to the Wittes. “We are here to celebrate life itself. The rescuing of one is the rescue of many generations. We would like to thank the Witte family from the deepest place in our hearts. We will never forget what you did for us,” he said.

Monday, May 16, 2011

State Ceremony Marks VE Day

Yad Vashem marked the Allied Victory over Nazi Germany in an inspiring and moving ceremony. Partisans and Veterans decorated with medals stood proud as the IDF Chief Cantor Lt. Col. Shai Abramson sang the traditional prayer of thanks, and the The Israeli Police Orchestra, conducted by Inspector Eitan Sobol played a medley of patriotic songs.

“We are gathered here in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the place to which Jews yearned for over two thousand years, in order to mark the victory of the Allied forces over Nazi Germany, and to salute Jewish bravery,” said Ehud Barak, Israeli Minister of Defense. “My brothers - veterans and partisans - as the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel, I salute you.You have fought not only for your own lives, but also for the future of the Jewish people, and the future of all humanity.”

Chairman of Yad Vashem, Avner Shalev, spoke about the special role of Jews who fought for the Allies. “The fighting of Jews was unique. As citizens they fought in order to defend their countries against a cruel enemy. But they have also fought for their personal and collective existence, on behalf of the entire Jewish people."

Captain Vadim Kornblitt, grandson of a veteran of the Red Army, drew a connection between the past, the future and the present. “It is a great honor to be here today among you. Among decorated soldiers and heros. We cherish you and will continue to tell your story - to embrace your heritage….I am proud to follow in your footsteps. I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve the State of Israel and to defend you.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tony Blair at Yad Vashem Today

Today, Quartet Representative Tony Blair took an in-depth tour of the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem. Following his visit, he wrote the following in the guestbook:

"Thank you for what will remain with me forever. It is hard to describe what this means to me or how profoundly it affects my emotions. For me, this is a memorial, it is a tribute, it is a reflection of an event almost too terrible to contemplate. But it is also a warning, a warning of the wickedness of which humanity is capable. I leave here with that warning in my mind. I also leave, however, with a sense of hope, because amidst all the evil and tragedy, those that survived built a better world and had the grace and wisdom then to build this testament to suffering and to the human spirit."

Gathering the fragments

Yad Vashem has launched a nation-wide project to encourage people who have Holocaust-era documents, artifacts and photos to deposit them with Yad Vashem for preservation and safekeeping.

Here's an interesting piece by Dr. Robert Rozett on the idea behind the campaign:

Gathering the Fragments, The Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2011.