Israel’s military gives meaning to the phrase “Never again,” IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot said in Poland on Thursday, speaking just before a ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Birkenau death camp.
“The most important thing is ensuring the existence of the state for the future,” he said.
Eisenkot traveled to Israel with President Reuven Rivlin, along with the other heads of Israel’s security services — the Mossad, Shin Bet, and Israel Police — for the March of the Living.
Along with more than 10,000 people from 40 countries, the delegation marched the three kilometers (two miles) from the main Auschwitz concentration camp to Birkenau, which housed the gassing chambers and crematoria.
Ahead of the ceremony, Eisenkot spoke to the three Holocaust survivors and 20 IDF officers and NCOs who made up the army delegation, saying their visit “exemplifies the phrase ‘From Holocaust to resurrection.'”
“It exemplifies the power that allowed the State of Israel to go from the Holocaust to resurrection and to form a nation and a military with the capability to put something strong and real behind the phrase ‘Never again,'” he added.
It was Eisenkot’s second time participating in the march.
“A week before Israel’s 70th Independence day, it is an emotional experience to come back to Poland as the chief of staff, leading an IDF delegation,” he said.
The army chief made his remarks on the airport runway shortly after landing in Poland on Thursday, ahead of his participation in the march.
The Nazis killed some 1.1 million people at Auschwitz, mostly Jews, but also Russians, Roma, Poles, and members of other nationalities.
Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated each year by Israel and Jews around the world on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It falls exactly one week before Israel’s Independence Day, on the fifth day of the Jewish month of Iyar.
There was speculation that Eisenkot could back out of the planned trip in light of the security situation on the northern border, following an airstrike on a Syrian air base on Monday that was attributed to the Israeli military.
The predawn strike on Monday reportedly killed 14 people. Semi-official Iranian media outlets reported that at least seven members of Iran’s military were among the dead.
Syria, Russia, and Iran all said that Israel was behind the attack. Anonymous US officials also claimed Israel had carried it out, telling local journalists that their Israeli counterparts had notified them ahead of time.
Israel has refused to comment on the matter, keeping with its policy of ambiguity regarding airstrikes outside the country’s borders.
On Thursday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s liaison to Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force threatened that if “Israel wants to survive a few more days, it has to stop this childish game.
“Iran has the capability to destroy Israel and given the excuse, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be razed to the ground,” said Ali Shirazi, according to Iran’s Fars news agency.
Israeli officials did not appear to be taking the threat of a retaliatory attack lightly — whether by Iran, or its proxy, the Hezbollah terrorist group — and Israel’s military was put on high alert.