Bergen Belsen, Germany, 28 October 2007 Opening Ceremony of the Bergen Belsen Museum and Documentation Center

Speech by Jochevet Ritz-Olewski Member of the board Irgun She'rit Hapleita Bergen Belsen Israel

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Prime Minister, Ministers, Distinguished Guests and Dear Friends A few days ago I received an Email which reminded me of a personal story which took place in our home many years ago. One day, my daughter Ayelet, who is here with us today, and at that time was a little girl, noticed a strange tattoo on my mother’s arm and asked: - "Grandma, what a boring tattoo you have on your arm. It’s just a bunch of numbers and a triangle." - "I was very young when I got it and kept it as a reminder", my mother said. - "A reminder of happier days?" Ayelet asked. - "No. Of a time when the world went mad. Imagine yourself in a land where your countrymen followed political extremist leaders who didn’t like your religion. Imagine having everything taken away from you, your entire family sent to a concentration camp as slaves, then systematically murdered. In this place, they even took your name and replaced it with a number tattooed on your arm. It was called The Holocaust, when millions of people perished just because of their religion”. - "So you kept it to remind yourself of the dangers of political extremism?" my child asked. - "No, my dear - my mother answered - I kept it to REMIND YOU!!". Who will be our reminder when the survivors will no longer be with us? The opening of the new Documentation Center in Bergen Belsen is therefore occurring at a critical time. What will our children, grandchildren and visitors from all countries be experiencing when they come here? What message will the center deliver? I believe that the center has a mission of a Human and Universal nature: It places a mirror in the face of Humanity. It should serve as an educational vehicle to its visitors. It should be a constant reminder of the atrocities man is able to do to his fellowmen, and it should help prevent the reoccurrence of what happened here more than 60 years ago. At the same time the center should provide a testimony of the good in man, of the fact that men have not lost their humanity even when at the valley of death. I want the center to reflect the faith we have in mankind and the human ability to build a new life – a miraculous rehabilitation which started in the DP Camp immediately after the liberation. I expect this Documentation Center to serve as the link between the generation of survivors, which is slowly disappearing, and the next generations. This center is exposing

the world to the voice of the survivors. The written, photographed, recorded and filmed testimonies will serve as living witnesses after the survivors are no longer with us. The survivors, for whom the memory of the Holocaust is sealed in their flesh, carry the torch of remembrance over to the next generations together with the Jewish message that this memory should lead to positive action and moral commitment. It should serve as underpinnings for the strength to create a better world. From the horrors we ask you to extrapolate a positive message to our people and to the world – a message of commitment to the moral values of humanity. It is in this spirit that my family contributed personally to the establishment of this important Documentation Center as did many of the members of Irgun Sherit Hapleita Israel - the Organization of Bergen Belsen Survivors in Israel, This new center is the symbol of cooperation between the Jewish people and the second generation of the German nation. This cooperation brought about the set up of a memorial which reminds us of the human disgrace which took place here, and at the same time celebrates the spirit of mankind which rehabilitated the survivors. I was born not far from here, in the DP Camp, in the Glyn-Hughes hospital. As the daughter of Rachela and Raphael Olewski, who were liberated in Bergen Belsen, I spent my first year right here in one of the buildings across the street. I can still see myself as a little girl running around here – in this Roundhouse, where my father used to work for many hours as a member of the Central Committee of the DP Camp. And here I am today – together with members of my family: my daughter, my brother and his daughter. We did not choose to be second or third generation. It just happened. As the number of survivors is decreasing, so is our responsibility increasing. I am proud to be part of this historical opening of the Documentation Center and welcome you all on behalf of Irgun Sh’erit Hapleita Bergen Belsen Israel, the survivors and people liberated in Bergen Belsen and the Second and Third generation of the Holocaust survivors in Israel. In honor of the opening of the new Documentation Center, Irgun Sh’erit Hapleita Bergen Belsen in Israel planted 180 trees in one of the forests of “Keren Kayemet Le’Israel” (KKL) in Israel. Mr. Zeev Fishler, a survivor liberated in Bergen Belsen and a member of the board of the Irgun in Israel, and Mr. Ariel Yahalomi President Irgun Sh’erit Hapleita Bergen Belsen Israel will present the certificate of this gift. Jochevet Ritz Olewski Raanana Israel.

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