Knesset (finally) fetes Ghetto heroes

26 certificates distributed to fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the families of their comrades who have died.

July 27, 2011 04:40
2 minute read.
Warsaw Ghetto fighters honored at Knesset

Warsaw Ghetto fighters 311. (photo credit: Isaac Harari/Knesset)

The Knesset honored heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on Tuesday, in a ceremony initiated by MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi).

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Yad Vashem chairman Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau distributed 26 certificates to fighters in the uprising and the families of their comrades who have died.

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Rochi Narkis represented the families of fighters who survived the Holocaust, but passed away since.

She expressed outrage that this was the first time in the 63 years since the state was established, that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising heroes were honored in the Knesset.

One fighter, Simha “Kajik” Rotem, boycotted the ceremony, Narkis said.

“Where was the world during the Holocaust? That was their feeling and their question, which they continued to ask in the State of Israel,” she said. “How is it that don’t they recognize us?” “The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a symbol of courage in the time of the Holocaust. I haven’t done even 1 percent of what these heroes did, and I am honored to speak in their name, and say thank you to the handful of people who did something, planned this event, and recognized the fighters,” Narkis said.

“I had the privilege of serving in the IDF as an officer and a fighter, but I am not a hero,” Rivlin said. “I never stopped a tank with a Molotov cocktail, and I did not fight empty-handed in alleys and the sewage pipes.

“I am not a hero, but I know how to appreciate heroism,” he said. “Those with the courage to fight the evil Nazi empire are the real heroes.

“From the time of the State of Israel’s establishment, our fighters have been inspired by those who dared to rebel in the heart of the Nazi empire at the height of its power. Their rebellion put fear in the hearts of SS soldiers, who hesitated to walk the streets of Warsaw,” Rivlin said.

“I’m afraid that we remembered the heroism, but forgot the heroes,” the Knesset Speaker said, praising Orbach for his initiative.

“We are here for our children and our grandchildren, who should know that the Knesset remembers,” Orbach said. “This certificate is not for [the fighters], it is for us.

“If we could, we’d give every citizen in Israel a certificate that says ‘You must remember’ – every young person and soldier needs to know,” about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the MK said. “These fighters are heroes of the Jewish people and all of humanity.”

Lau, who survived Buchenwald, said that although the Warsaw Ghetto was not the only uprising during the Holocaust, it became “a symbol and a myth.” “In the 68 years since the uprising, the legend has grown,” he said.

The Tel Aviv chief rabbi added: “We do not know who all the fighters were, and we never will, but Yad Vashem is making every effort possible to spread the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and its fighters.

Their light should shine on the masses in Israel.”

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