(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
"We will never allow our sons and daughters, our parents and grandparents to be wiped off the face of the earth again," IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Thursday in his address at the March of the Living ceremony in Auschwitz Birkenau in Poland. "We have learned our lesson and we are taking threats to destroy Israel seriously."
Ashkenazi alluded to current threats to Israel's existence, calling "to all nations and all national leaders to combat hatred on the face of the earth, to eradicate it and to act decisively against manifestations of anti-Semitism in the world."
"We will not be able to say we did not see - the writing is on the wall, clear and distinct," he warned.
"I stand with pride and passion as a commander, a son to a Jewish state that possesses might and strength, and I pledge: Never again; never will we stand helpless, [depending] on the charity of others," Ashkenazi continued. "We, the soldiers of the Israel Defense Force - the emissaries of people and nation - stand here today in IDF uniforms and raise Israel's banner with pride in the name of tens of thousands of IDF soldiers and commanders who consider themselves the executors of the will, the prayer and the dream of our six million brothers whose existence was cruelly cut short."
Some 12,000 young Jews, Poles and World War II survivors took part in the March of the Living Thursday, an annual event at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau that honors the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.
Ashkenazi led the march along with 160 IDF soldiers participating in the "Witnesses in Uniform" educational program. Israeli ambassadors from Hungary and Poland, along with ministers from both countries were also present. Participants hailed from 54 different countries.
This year's march, the 17th, started with the blowing of the shofar, or ram's horn, at the iron gate - crowned with the words "Arbeit Macht Frei," or "Work Sets You Free" - that leads into the former camp of Auschwitz.
Participants carrying white-and-blue Israeli flags were led by some camp survivors on their two-mile trek between Auschwitz I, which was primarily a work camp, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, the death camp itself, containing nothing but wooden barracks and ruins of the gas chambers.
The Mourner's Kaddish - the Jewish prayer memorial prayer - was said at a huge stone monument to the camp's victims at Birkenau.
At least 1.1 million people, including Jews, Poles and Roma, perished in the camp's gas chambers or from starvation, disease and forced labor. The camp was liberated in January 1945 by Soviet troops.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>