(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I think of my family – Auschwitz survivors – and of the people who saved my life.
I was born in Belgium to Shaina and Yankel Mendelevich. When WWII broke out, my sisters and I were given to a Christian family for adoption. That family saved my life.
I am a Holocaust survivor. With the exception of my mother, my entire family perished in Auschwitz.
My adoptive Catholic family did everything in their power to protect me, provide for me and give me as much of a decent life as possible during wartime. It was the first time I had witnessed an act of heroism – a human, humane heroism done by people who chose to save the lives of others.
Today as I have the great privilege of serving as the Israeli chairman of the board of trustees in a museum portraying the works of the Righteous Among the Nations, it is for me coming a full circle both personally and on a national level.
Facing the man-made horrors, the acts of madness and terror of the Holocaust, there were also people who stood up to all of that, like points of light in the midst of all that darkness.
The Friends of Zion Museum opened recently in Jerusalem, a museum I am proud to serve as the Israeli chairman of its board, conveys this precise message of hope and the ability to act against evil even in times of extreme difficulties.
This museum is a dream, a vision-turned-reality for us – the people who wanted to cherish the Righteous Among the Nations.
In the past year, millions around the world have been introduced to the Friends of Zion Museum. For us at the museum, it is an honor to commemorate those who risked their lives in order to save the lives of others.
As I stood on German soil in 1988, this time as an officer – a major-general in the Israeli Army, I saluted the Israeli flag. I was thinking of my family and of my childhood as a Jewish boy. The fact that I was able to represent my people and their country filled me with pride.
Heading a museum which commemorates and immortalize the works of those thousands of people who helped us, the Jewish people, simply stay alive, feels as if I am saluting them and perhaps more than that – it feels as if I am saluting my adoptive family.
The State of Israel is morally indebted to the Righteous Among the Nations and holds a responsibility to the fates of Holocaust survivors.
I hope we will respectfully perform these duties in caring for the Holocaust survivors still among us and we will somehow be able to express our feelings of gratitude to the Righteous Among the Nations and to all of those who reached out to Israel in the darkest period humanity has ever known.Since leaving the IDF in 1991 after serving as OC Northern Command, the writer has served as a minister-without-portfolio and held a number of government and commercial posts.