When Matityahu Droblas was a boy during the Holocaust, hiding out in the forests of Poland, he sometimes believed that he was the last Jew alive.

“The Poles told me that the Germans killed all the Jews,” he remembered on Monday, at Yad Vashem.

Droblas escaped the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 and survived by wandering through the Polish countryside. Some days death seemed like it would be better than staying alive, he said.

Droblas harbored one dream during those years of wandering: To come to Palestine, a place where Jews once had their own land.

Droblas realized that dream, came to Israel, served as a member of Knesset (from 1972- 1977), and headed the Settlement Division of the Jewish Agency (1978-1992), during which he oversaw the creation of 380 towns across Israel. Today, he is as a member of Yad Vashem’s board.

Standing in the hot sun on Monday in front of the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial at Yad Vashem, which had been defaced by vandals hours earlier with virulently anti-Zionist messages, Droblas, 81, was in shock. His voice shook and there were tears in his eyes as he tried to make sense of the terrible act of vandalism, which police believe was carried out by extremist haredim.

“The Warsaw Ghetto is a symbol of the Jewish nation, a symbol of uprising, a symbol of freedom,” he said. “I don’t know who did this, but without being a psychiatrist I can say they’re not normal, we need to isolate them so they won’t harm society anymore.”

Droblas said he desperately wanted to believe that the vandalism was not carried out by a Jew.

One slogan read: “To the respectable government of Poland, stop allowing the Zionists to conduct manipulative commemorations at Auschwitz.” It was signed “World Haredi Judaism.”

“In Israel, there are 200,000 Holocaust survivors,” said Droblas. “But these acts aren’t just against those 200,000 people, they are against the entire country.

Am Yisrael Chai – The nation of Israel lives. We will continue to live, whether or not they want it.”

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