Israeli President at emotional tree-planting

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President Reuven Rivlin visited the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in what is now the Czech Republic. He laid a wreath and participated in an emotional official ceremony, accompanied by the Czech president. Read how Rivlin, together with an 86-year-old survivor, replanted a Maple Wood tree grown from a cutting of the original she and other camp kids planted in secret on Tu B'Shvat in 1943. The ceremony was extremely emotional.
by ANT KATZ | Oct 23, 2015

Israeli President Rivlin visited the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp on Thursday morning accompanied by president of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman.

During the visit, the presidents attended the official military memorial ceremony and laid a wreath, before the national anthems of both Israel and the Czech Republic were played, and the "El Maleh Rachamim" memorial prayer was recited.

Rivlin Czech embrace

RIGHT: Presidents Rivlin and Zeman place stones on a grave   - All Photos: Mark Neyman (Government Press Office)

At the end of the ceremony the president said the Kaddish prayer in memory of the victims.

Jason Pearlman, the president’s spokesman, told Jewish Report Online Rivlin went on to the Maple Wood Memorial for the children of Terezin. A tree was planted in secret by the camp's children during the Tu B'Shvat holiday in 1943, and a ceremony held by the children in the yard near their hut.

Sadly, a flood hit the memorial site in 2002 and damaged the historically significant maple tree.

But, said Pearlman, cuttings were taken from the original damaged tree and its trunk was placed as a memorial near the Jewish cemetery and crematorium.

Rivlin Czech embraceHelga Ošková-Weissová, aged 86, was one of the children who planted the tree in 1943. She was invited to take part in planting a new tree with the president.

LEFT: Rivlin hugs survivor Helga Ošková-Weissová – with whom he planted a tree (see below)

The president embraced her warmly and told her he was moved from by the occasion, and was very proud, as president, to plant the new tree with seedling cuttings from the original tree, with one of the planters of the original tree. (Rivlin himself is a fifth-generation Jerusalemite.)

After President Rivlin planted the tree alongside Helga, he said: "There is nothing more symbolic than a tree that has survived and has continued to commemorate the life that went on and emerged from the dust.

“I am moved, but moreover tremendously proud to stand here beside you, as a Jew first and foremost, and as the president of the State of Israel, at the spot where the greatest human tragedy for the Jews took place,” said President Rivlin.

. The growth that has emerged here is the growth of a nation, its victory against all odds, and also the promise that we will continue, and continue to grow, that we will continue to stand up to anyone who would seek to disrupt our ability to live in peace and security."

At the end of the ceremony, the president said: "We are in the most pastoral environment in nature where horrendous crimes were committed. When we say 'never again', we know what we need to do today to never allow another Holocaust from taking place. It was from here in Theresienstadt that the worse propaganda of the Nazi beast emanated.
"From here came an attempt to create terrible lies, as if the Nazis were as beneficiaries to the Jewish people, as if they took care of all of humanity, as if they put their hearts into educating children and enable culture.

"It was from here in this place of horror that terrible lies fostered and we will not allow the world to give in to such a reality once again. We learned the lesson; we learnt it and continue learning it."

The president went on to say: "Our biggest victory as a people lies in such visits as these, the third visit of President of Israel, a sovereign and democratic state, in this land. We are here once again and the Nazis are not."

Helga Ošková-Weissová was born in 1929 and was sent to Theresienstadt in December 1941 with her family. She was then deported with her mother to Auschwitz in October 1944. Helga survived the Holocaust and established her home in the Czech Republic.

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President Rivlin planted the tree alongside Helga Ošková-Weissová Photo: Mark Neyman (GPO)

1 Comment

  1. 1 L.Defalque 27 Oct
    the reason that I write this is that the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of anti-Semitic lies flying around about the remarks Mr.Netanyahu about the Mufti of Jerusalem : Amin El Husseini.Very briefly:
    the ex-mufti had a very black WW2 record.He organized with Rashid Ali,a pro-German revolt in Iraq,planning to turn the Mosul oilfield over to Hitler.When this rebellion was defeated by British arms the ex-mufti fled to Iran and found refuge in the Japanese Embassy.Later he went to Berlin where he organized pro-Nazi  propaganda to the arab world and at the same time assisted in Hitler's program to annihilate the Jews Many incriminating documents against the ex-mufti were unearthed in Germany during the Allied post-war search of German records.One of these of the German High Command showed that it was only through money supplied by Germany that the ex-mufti was able to conduct the 1936-1939 rebellion in Palestine.
    Mr Netanyahu was very right with his comments
    I for myself planted a tree in Israel in 1965 and am very proud of it


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