A ceremony of a delegation of IDF soldiers, headed by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi began on Monday afternoon at the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland.
“Only the birch trees planted here remain witnesses to the horror that occurred here and the pit of hell that it opened,” IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi said on Monday at a ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland. “They saw and could do nothing. Some of the roots quickly covered up what the trees saw, others protected the dead. But the roots of the nation were not removed. The testimonies rose higher than the piles of shoes and the lessons learned higher than the piles of ashes.”
A reference to Iran?
Kohavi continued, “You don’t need to be a historian or a researcher to understand the horrors of the Holocaust, you need to be a human being. Anyone who lies and denies this painful and substantial historical truth is a liar of the past and will surely be a liar of the future. This is yet another reminder that we cannot allow people who express these sentiments to retain any kind of power to develop weapons of mass destruction.”
Kohavi was responding to comments made about the Holocaust by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who said that “Historical events should be investigated by researchers and historians. There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.” He was asked by journalist Leslie Stahl if he believes the Holocaust occurred and that six million Jews were killed.
Raisi’s response sparked an emotional and angry backlash from Israeli leaders.
“We did not come here to be angry, but rather to strengthen memory and the lessons it teaches us,” the IDF chief of staff said.
“If you could ask for anything, it is almost certain that you would ask us to at least remember you, your names and the worlds you built. That’s why we’re here: to remember and remind ourselves and the world. If you had one more thought after whispering ‘Shema Yisrael,’ it is almost certain that you would wish for the Jewish nation to have a protective force of its own. If you could only have imagined then that your grandchildren will wear the Hebrew uniform and stand here before you."
“We stand here today on human ground, while our military boots carry the ground of Israel, the country we protect. We created a home, not just for the Jewish people, but for those who worked with us – Druze, Christians and Muslims.”
The rest of Kohavi's trip
Kohavi toured Auschwitz along with a delegation of IDF officers, including combat brigade and battalion commanders. The delegation held workshops on the topic of heroism during the Holocaust, and attended meetings with Polish Army officers as part of the growing relationship between the armies.
Kohavi is in Poland for a three-day visit during which he will meet with the country’s Chief of Staff Gen. Rajmund T. Andrzejczak and hold working meetings with other senior officials.
The IDF delegation will visit Warsaw, where they will tour the Jewish cemetery and the Jewish Museum, and lay a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial as well as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.