Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited Auschwitz on Thursday, saying one of the key lessons the Jews took from the Holocaust was not to expect “others to do the work for us.”

“The leaders of the Allies knew about the Holocaust in real time,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a permanent exhibit called “Shoah” in Block 27 at the Auschwitz- Birkenau State Museum.

“They understood exactly what was happening in the death camps. They were asked to act, they could have acted, and they did not.

“To us Jews the lesson is clear: We must not be complacent in the face of threats of annihilation. We must not bury our heads in the sand or allow others to do the work for us. We will never be helpless again.”

Netanyahu, who in the past has drawn parallels between Iran’s nuclear march and call for the destruction of Israel, and the Nazi intention to wipe out the Jews, said, “Even today we hear threats of the destruction of the Jewish people, and the world behaves as usual.

“From here, Auschwitz- Birkenau, the place that attests to the desire to destroy our people, I – the prime minister of Israel, the state of the Jewish people – say to all the nations of the world: The State of Israel will do whatever is necessary to prevent another Holocaust. Even today there is someone who declares his intention to destroy millions of Jews and wipe their state off the map.”

Netanyahu said the difference between then and now was that today, “we have an independent state and a strong army, which allows us to protect our people and to stop this criminal intent.”

He disputed the notion that the world’s attitude toward the Jews has changed since the Holocaust.

“What has really changed?” he asked. “The hatred of Jews changes form, but it remains – if not [based on] racial superiority, then [on] religious superiority. And the world’s apathy toward this hatred remains the same.”

Netanyahu said the world has swiftly become accustomed again to those declaring that they want to destroy millions of Jews. Likewise, he said, “the indecision of the enlightened countries regarding whether to act against extreme regimes that threaten us and the peace of the world is also something that has not changed.”

The only thing that has changed, he continued, “is our ability and determination to act to defend ourselves and prevent another Holocaust.”

The prime minister’s visit to the site came on the final day of his two-day visit to Poland. On Wednesday, he, along with five other cabinet ministers, met their Polish counterparts in the second government-to-government meeting between the two countries. The delegation returned to Israel on Thursday night.

The exhibition that Netanyahu opened was designed and built by Yad Vashem, in coordination with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. According to Yad Vashem, the previous exhibition, dating back to the communist era, was outdated both in content and in display methods, and most visitors to the site bypassed it.

Following prime minister Ariel Sharon’s visit there in 2005 as part of the March of the Living, the government charged Yad Vashem with renovating the exhibition.

Funding for the NIS 30 million project came from both the government and the Claims Conference.

The 1,000-square-meter exhibition in the two-floor block consists of several spaces, each dedicated to an element of the Holocaust, including one devoted to the 1.5 million Jewish children who were killed. The exhibition also includes a 2- meter high Book of Names that lists the names, compiled by Yad Vashem, of 4.2 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. The book includes empty pages at the end, leaving room for additional names as Yad Vashem continues collecting the names of victims.

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