Tel Aviv (Jun. 15)
Simone Veil, president of the Parliament of Europe and a former French Cabinet Minister, told a gathering of Nazi Holocaust survivors here last night that the thought of Palestine had kept alive a spark of hope in the hearts of the Jews in concentration camps during World War II.
Veil, addressing a reception here before tonight’s formal opening of the four-day survivors international gathering, opened her remarks with a brief memorial to her father, mother and brother who had perished in Nazi concentration camps. She herself is a camp survivor.
Veil came to Israel for a 24-hour visit to address the opening meeting. She said she had been asked before leaving Paris why the meeting should be held in Israel, and had replied that this was the only place it could be held.
The initiator and driving force behind the gathering, Ernest Michel, of New York, estimates that of the three million Jews who survived, of the nine million who lived in Europe before the war, between 300,000 – 400,000 had passed through the concentration camps and survived. Most of them are now living in Israel. Veil said: “We are fighting against forgetfulness about the Holocaust. There are already people who claim the Holocaust never happened. But all of us here are witnesses, and we shall make our voices heard.”
Stefan Grayek, president of the World Federation of Jewish Fighters, Partisans and Camp Inmates, told the gathering that the world had remained indifferent when he and his comrades had sent secret messages to London in the name of the Jews of Warsaw during their ghetto fight, appealing for the allies to bomb the Auschwitz camp installation. He referred to recent manifestations of renewed anti-Semitism throughout the world and said the camp survivors were duty-bound to draw attention to the dangers, including those arising from the sale by West Germany of arms to the Arabs. “It is our duty not to forget, and not to allow others to forget,” Grayek declared.
FIRST AND LAST SUCH EVENT
The gathering has brought over 4000 death camp survivors from 26 countries who joined a similar number of survivors living in Israel also attending the conference. Many brought their children with them. The event was described by its organizers as the first and probably the last of its kind. Because of the advanced and advancing age of the camp survivors, no similar gathering of this magnitude is likely to be held again.
Michel, who is executive vice president of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York and himself a camp survivor, recalled yesterday a vow that he and other inmates had taken at Auschwitz when their chances of survival appeared to be nil. “We promised each other then that if any of us survived, we would meet some day in the future to celebrate the human will to survive,” he said.
The keynote of the present gathering is “Not to mourn the dead — regular memorial meetings are held in Israel and throughout the world–but to celebrate life and to pass on to our children the memory of the Holocaust to ensure that such would not happen again.”
The conference will be addressed by President Yitzhak Navon of Israel. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.), who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East is attending as special representative of President Reagan from whom he bears a message. Another American on hand is Allan Ryan Jr., head of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) which seeks to bring Nazi war criminals living in the U.S. to trial for possible deportation.
Premier Menachem Begin will speak at the closing session Thursday.