Holocaust survivors gather in Jerusalem

By HOWARD ARENSTEIN  |  June 15, 1981
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JERUSALEM -- Israeli leaders told the World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Monday the Jewish state has an 'Auschwitz complex' and must take seriously any threat from 'crazy people' to destroy it.

President Yitzhak Navon spoke to nearly 6,000 survivors of the Nazi death camps meeting in Jerusalem for the first such large-scale gathering of its kind.

The first day of the 4-day conference, entitled 'Remembrance,' was held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum dedicated to the 6 million Jews who died in the Nazi death camps during World War II.

Conference organizers said some 500,000 to 600,000 survivors are alive today, about 85 percent of them living in Israel.

'We should take seriously any threat against our existence,' Navon told the participants from Israel and 23 other countries. 'It's the crazy people who do not change their minds -- our ears should discern any tone of threat. Take them seriously.'

Navon said it was the duty of survivors everywhere 'to tell and retell the vivid memory of your horrible experiences to your children and grandchildren. Don't let it be forgotten.'

Prime Minister Menachem Begin also recalled the Holocaust in justifying last week's bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, calling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a madman.

Knesset member Gideon Hausner, the chairman of Yad Veshem and the prosecutor at the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann who was convicted and executed in Israel, referred directly to the 'heartbreaking decision' to bomb the reactor.

'Yes, we do have an Aushwitz complex,' Hausner said. 'In the future we have to decide what is vital to our nation. Only Israel can assure that the horrors of the past will not recur.'

Navon said the only answer to the Holocaust was for all Jews to move to Israel and called on the participants 'to do what most of the 6 million exterminated Jews would have done if they were alive -- come to Israel.'

Earlier in the day, the survivors toured the Holocaust museum, placing flowers at the names of Nazi death camps carved in the floor of the Hall of Remembrance, where ashes of anonymous victims have been buried.

They also contributed to the museum stones brought from their home countries inscribed with names of relatives. The stones will be made into a memorial.

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