Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Historic First: IDF Chief at Head of March to Auschwitz

Ezra HaLevi.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi visited the Warsaw Ghetto and a Jewish cemetery in Poland ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins Wednesday night.

The top IDF commander visited the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw, Poland where the Jews who died in the Warsaw Ghetto were buried. Ashkenazi reportedly stood silent for a few moments and then said: "The answer to what we see here is us, the State of Israel, the IDF and victory." Ashkenazi met with Jews who continue to live in Poland and visited the Nozyk synagogue. He also visited a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, located at the site of the home used as a command center by Mordechai Anielewicz, the local commander of the Jewish uprising against the Nazis.

"In this place Mordechai Anielewicz didn’t just hide from the Nazis,” Ashkenazi noted, “he also fought. It is fitting that the soldiers of the IDF soldiers learn the story of this uprising. That is why we came to admire and salute the heroes who - despite the realities and balance of power, and the fact that they were untrained civilians - got up and took action and fought. Today we call these principles and moral norms."

“They knew they had no chance of winning, but they fought nevertheless. That is bravery… The importance of victory is a norm for the IDF and a central part of it, alongside remembrance and study of the Holocaust."

The IDF Chief of Staff will lead thousands of young people in the annual March of the Living at the Auschwitz concentration camp on Thursday. It will be the first time an IDF commander has led the march.Accompanying Ashkenazi is IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Avichai Ronsky, who recited the E-l Malei Rachamim prayer, IDF Education Corps Chief Brig.-Gen. Eli Shermeister and IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu.

Also accompanying the Chief of Staff is Sgt.-Maj. Tal Shabbat, who was badly wounded while conducting counter-terror operations in the northern Gaza rocket-launching capital of Beit Hanoun in November, 2006. Corp. Ro'i Granitza, wounded during the Second Lebanon War by a rocket fired at his tank, is also a member of the delegation.

Ashkenazi will meet with Polish defense officials during his visit as well. Both Israeli and Polish security forces are deployed throughout the region, in anticipation of Islamist attempts to attack the IDF chief.

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