Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Largest Ever Delegation visits Auschwitz for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Some 60 members of Israel’s Knesset are in Poland to commemorate the victims of the Shoah

By: Graham Sigurdson

Published: January 27th, 2014 in News » World

Today, January 27th, 2014, the largest ever delegation of Israeli lawmakers visited Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Among the MK members were Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennet, Housing Miniser Uri Ariel, Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, and Enviromental Minister Amir Peretz, who arrived alongside 24 Holocaust survivors and their families.

In addition to this, 250 prominent public figures also made the trip, including Yosef Shapira, Supreme Court Justive Elyakim Rubinstein and Yad Vashem’s Chairman Avner Shalev, participating in several ceremonies. Opposition head Isaac Herzog and coalition head Yariv Levin -of Likud Yisrael Beytenu – lead the delegation after Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein was unable to due to his wife’s death. The group were joined by another 1,000 in attendance to pay their respects, including many Polish parliamentarians.

As part of the visit, the Knesset members will hold an inter-parliamentary gathering with officials from Poland, the U.S., and several other visiting nations.

”Seven decades after millions of our people were cruelly murdered by the Nazi machine of destruction, it is my privilege to head the largest ever delegation of the Knesset, the parliament of the independent Jewish state, to the killing valley of Auschwitz-Birkenau,” said Levin.

In a statement released by the Knesset, the group’s itinerary was outlined: they arrived in two planes at Krakow’s military airport, heading to Auschwitz for a tour of the prisoner blocks and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The group later marched to Birkenau death camp for a ceremony held by the Polish government.

In a statement released before the visit, Herzog said that “We are travelling from Jerusalem to the Valley of Tears; the site of the greatest disaster and pain of our time. There are no words to describe the intensity of our feelings as those who represent the atmosphere and opinions in our democracy. We are traveling (to Poland) in order to remember, remind, learn and teach a lesson; to light a memorial candle and say a small prayer- the Yizkor prayer.”

The visit came a day after the release of a report which described a worldwide deterioration in the security of Jews and an increase in anti-Semitism. The report cited a September poll from the European Agency for Fundamental Rights, which noted that nearly a quarter of European Jews avoid visiting or wearing places that would identify them as Jews out of fear of anti-Semitism. Three-fourths of the Jews polled felt that anti-Semitism had increased in the past five years.

The visit comes nine years after the United Nations General Assembly set the International Holocaust Remembrance Day as January 27, a day to commemorate the day in 1945 on which the camp was liberated by Soviet troops.

Polish Jewish philanthropist, Sigmund Rolat, 83, helped to conduct he trip, alongside From the Depths, a group that commemorates the Holocaust. The trip, which is being funded by the Knesset, will cost $115,000, but will see the expenses paid for by the Auschwitz Museum, and the Polish government.

Stewart Rahr, philanthropist, also contributed $600,000 for the trip. “This event will be the most uplifting and emotional remembrance ceremony in Jewish history, a once-in-a-lifetime event,” said Rahr.

Rahr, a billionaire with a reputation for “antics,” reportedly arranged for singer Andrea Bocelli to perform at the event.

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