The State of Israel is a living memorial to the lives of six million Jewish men, women and children who were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, President Shimon Peres said Sunday during a ceremony in the Austrian capital.
“The Judenplatz was at the heart of a vibrant, thriving Jewish community, [but] from the 176,000 Jews of Vienna, only 5000 remained after the dark chapter of the Holocaust,” Peres said.
“The State of Israel is our victory. A fortress of triumph against the dark hand of the Nazis. A home to the memory of our six million brothers and sisters. A promise to the survivors of the horrors. A hope for the future of the Jewish People.”
The president recited Kaddish, the traditional Jewish memorial prayer, honoring the memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
Austrian President Heinz Fischer, who also attended the ceremony, said the residents of his country bore full responsibility for the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, adding that Austria’s mission today was to combat anti-Semitism in all of its forms.
“We have to acknowledge that the way this country dealt with the time of National Socialism even after the end of the war was over a long period largely dominated by an uneasy silence, a guilty conscience and attempted repression,” Fischer said.
“It is only in the last 25 years that Austria – as a result of a difficult process of awareness-raising – has eventually undergone a fundamental and important change in its historic awareness, from forgetting to remembering… By laying wreaths here at this memorial today in a ceremony with the President of Israel, we jointly commemorate the men and women who were killed during the Holocaust and honor the survivors of this tragedy of mankind.”
Earlier Sunday Peres met with Lamerto Zanier, secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to discuss the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We are in the midst of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and the sides are working around the clock in an effort to reach a breakthrough in the talks, but the process is ongoing,” Peres said.
“It is difficult to overcome the difficulties and I hope that in the coming days there will be positive developments in the negotiations. Your organization has a central role in preserving stability in the Middle East and bringing economic prosperity to all the people of the region.”