Israeli President Rivlin delivered speech at Verkhovna Rada

Author : Reuven Rivlin

Source :

Jewish people have long history that binds them with Ukraine
23:20, 28 September 2016

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Every year in the Holocaust Remembrance Day, we in Israel and around the world read the names of the dead. Each person has a name. But there are names, many names that will never be found, despite the efforts to find them. The cousins of my wife - children, babies - were left without a name. Many thousands of Jews who were shot, tortured, burned and buried alive in Babi Yar, have no names. They were killed in the open air. And nobody cared to write down their names. Unnamed. And then, as now it was autumn. Yar was green. The hand pressed the trigger again and again. More than 33 thousand Jews were murdered in just two days. They died a horrible cruel death. I describe this terrible picture not to shock someone. I say this because in Babi Yar tens of thousands of people, Jews, Ukrainians, Roma and members of other nations were killed not only by the Nazis. They were destroyed by Germans and their Ukrainian supporters.

I say this because the Nazis at Babi Yar also tried to erase this nightmare, to hide proofs and evidences. Two crimes were committed in this terrible ravine. First is the killing and destruction. Second offense is  the concealment and destruction of memory. Since July 1943, SS soldiers had been ordered to destroy all evidence of murder in shootings pits. By that time the number of those killed at Babi Yar already exceeded 150 thousand people. Order given to one of the units - number 11005, was clear - to destroy all the evidence. First, dead bodies were collected for burning. Then the bones were destroyed, and the ashes sifted to find the gold and silver. Such work to conceal the evidence was so effective that the brutal massacre was almost erased from the pages of history. Many years later, when the Nazis were persecuted and the war ended, there was no monument in Babi Yar. Twice they tried to wipe out the victims of Babi Yar. In their life and after their death. I have often asked myself why the Nazis so hard tried to hide traces of the crime. Maybe they were afraid of the trial. Crime of physical destruction has already occurred. We can not bring back the dead to life. We do not know all of their names, who they were, what they dreamed of and what they thought when they came to death. But we can not be the accomplices in crimes of neglect, eclipse of the facts and denial of the Holocaust.

Related: Holocaust: tragedy captured in stone

About 1.5 million Jews were killed in the territory of modern Ukraine during the Second World War, at Babi Yar and in many other places. They were shot in the woods, near the gullies and ditches, pushed into mass graves. Many collaborators of crimes were Ukrainians. And among them were particularly distinguished fighters of the OUN, who mocked Jews, killed them, and in many cases, betrayed, reveal them to the Germans. It is also true that there were more than 2.5 thousand Righteous among the Nations, those few sparks that burned brightly in the dark twilight of humanity. However, most were silent. Relations between the Ukrainian and the Jewish people today are going towards the future, but we can not allow the history of both terrible and good things to be forgotten. Anti-Semitism should be recognized as it was in the past and in its present form. And it is impossible to rehabilitate and glorify the anti-Semites. Political interests can not justify an indifferent silence or mumbling, when it comes to anti-Semitic structures. The leaders of countries that share the anti-Semitic, racist and neo-Nazi views will never be welcome and full-fledged members of the family of nations. The Jewish nation has a long history, which connects it with Ukraine. In Kyiv, Lviv, Rivne, Odesa and in hundreds of small towns scattered all over Ukraine –more than a thousand years a significant part of the Jewish people lived here. Here, living together, Ukrainians and Jews influenced each other.

I firmly believe that our future depends on us, on how we have learned the lessons of history, which will give assessment to the past, on the education of the young generation in the spirit of tolerance, humanity and democracy. To my great joy here I don’t express the minority opinions. Today Ukraine turns a new face to the world; Ukraine proves in deeds, not in words, its deep desire for change and improvement. I admire Ukraine and its democratic way of life, which it represents with pride, despite the challenge facing it in the sphere of security and economy. I am full of admiration and recognition on this distinguished Parliament, which expresses the living spirit of the Ukrainian democracy. I am honored to speak to you as a partner and friend.

Related: Only God knows their names...

This year we mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Ukraine. Mr. Poroshenko, during your visit to Israel this year between Israel and Ukraine were signed many of agreements in the sphere of trade and economy. And our countries act to deepen trade relations and the signing of the free economic zone agreement. We are expanding the scientific and technical, cultural and tourist cooperation. Even today, the volume of trade between the two countries exceeds $ 1 bln., and it is important to build it, promote its growth, removing bilateral barriers and obstacles. Ukrainian citizens do not need visas to visit Israel. The number of flights is increasing. Distance is shrinking. We invite Ukrainians to come to visit us, just to get acquainted with the state of Israel and its residents. The State of Israel believes in the existence of close bonds between freedom, democracy and prosperity. Freedom is a condition of prosperity. And the prosperity and well-being are the conditions of freedom. For many years, Israel has to defend its freedom and at the same time to achieve economic prosperity. Israel knows that Ukraine is faced with difficulties and challenges.

This is a difficult period. We support the efforts of the Ukrainian government to conduct important reforms in the socio-economic sphere. Israel promotes and will promote Ukraine in its progress towards a better future. I would like to express my hope that we can find a quick, peaceful solution to the conflict that occurs in your region. I know how important it is for you to ensure a peaceful future, the future prosperity and security for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. At the end of my speech I would like to send from here the prayer for the health of my friend Shimon Peres. Shimon Peres, the 9th president of Israel, who is fighting for his life now was a friend of Ukrainian people, and saw great importance in strengthening the relations between our peoples. He did much to achieve cooperation between the two countries. On behalf of our people in Israel and his friends around the world we all pray for his health.

Related: Rivlin: Ukrainians involved in murders and prosecutions of Jews during WWII

Related: Poroshenko meets with representatives of Jewish organizations in US

Related: "Synagogue space" project: Lviv reveals its Jewish history

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