'Murderous European dictator is back' - Holocaust survivor

"The specter of a murderous European dictator is cast across our continent once more," said Holocaust survivor and March of the Living participant Eve Kugler. Here is her speech.

 Eve Kugler at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, March 31, 2022.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Eve Kugler at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, March 31, 2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Holocaust survivor and March of the Living participant Eve Kugler spoke at the Jerusalem Post London Conference on Thursday. Here is a readout of her speech: 

It feels strange standing here today, to deliver the message of 'Never again.' Strange because anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are rising at rates I never thought I would see again in my lifetime. 

And strange because the specter of a murderous European dictator is cast across our continent once more. 

When I was growing up in a city called Halle in Germany, I saw firsthand how quickly events can escalate. I was only a young girl, but I was aware that things were very difficult for Jews. It started with my father’s business being targeted and boycotted. We weren’t allowed to go to various recreational places in the city. We wanted to leave but couldn’t get a visa, so we prayed that it couldn’t get much worse. But things did get a lot worse, and we know how it ended. 

When I was only 7, SS officers burst into our home. They tore the pages out of my grandfather’s Talmud, ripped his tallit - his prayer shawl -  and shredded his Sefer Torah scroll. Later, we learned that the synagogue which my grandfather had established had been burned to the ground. 

 Eve Kugler speaking at the House of Lords at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, March 31, 2022.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Eve Kugler speaking at the House of Lords at the Jerusalem Post London Conference, March 31, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

When you don’t confront evil, evil finds a way of pushing the boundaries beyond anything anyone thought possible. It didn’t start with 6 million dead. It started with words. But it rose to more than 6 million very quickly from there.

It has been my life’s mission to ensure that we, the generation of the Holocaust, could look our children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren in the eye and tell them that the world they inherit is better than the one we were born into. 

What is clear to us all now more than ever is that words like Never Again are not enough. 

We must take action too. 

Next month we will be taking part in our first March of the Living in 3 years. Covid has taken away this opportunity for so many. I am now 91 years old and have taken part 9 times. It is never easy. The more I do it the harder it gets. But of course, the difference it makes to have survivors on the March is immeasurable. It inspires us and I know it inspires those who are seeing history for the first time. So it is our responsibility to be there for as long as we can.

But, as you know, we survivors are an increasingly rare breed. And this should worry you more than it worries me. 

It should worry you because if THIS is how the memory of the Holocaust is treated - or dare I say abused - when those who suffered are still here to tell our story, then how much worse will it be when the survivors are no more than a distant memory? 

We, the survivors, need to know that Holocaust memory will be kept alive. We need to know that Holocaust deniers won't prevail. We need your voice against antisemitism and all forms of hatred.

That is why March of the Living is so important and why 12 years ago, my wonderfully farsighted friend Scott Saunders, insisted the UK join the tens of thousands of people from all around the world in walking the 3km from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Yom HaShoah.

Those who participate in the March of the Living give us, the survivors, the opportunity to create a new generation of witnesses. I will once again be able to pass the torch on. 

And I hope and I pray that the flame will light a fire in future generations so that when they too say NEVER AGAIN, the world will, at long last, actually listen. Please, promise me, that my memories, my story and those of other survivors, will not just be heard, but be learned. Otherwise, before you know it, you will be asking yourselves the questions I have struggled to live with over the past 83 years. And you will ask yourselves, “how could it happen again?"