January 27 2015; Holocaust Memorial Day ;Speech by Ishak İbrahimzadeh President of the Jewish Community of Turkey
In the beginning of the 1930's, Stella married Leon and moved to Paris from Istanbul. Their daughters, Nelly and Irene, were born in France. With the German invasion of France, Leon, who was a French citizen, was sent to Drancy internment camp along with his two brothers. The Nazis did not send away Stella because of her Turkish nationality. She struggled to survive with her daughters in Paris under what were difficult circumstances. In 1944 the Germans started sending all Jews to concentration camps without making any distinction or exception with regards to their citizenship. This was due to the fact that the Nazis understood they would soon lose the war.
With the help of Turkish diplomats, Stella managed to register her daughters as Turkish citizens and at the very last moment she jumped on the Orient Express sent by the Turkish government and made it to Balat, Istanbul instead of Auschwitz. She moved into her sister Rosa's house there.
Stella and her daughters returned to France in 1946 right after the war and located Leon, who somehow succeeded in breaking out of Drancy but still one of his brothers perished in Auschwitz. They continued their lives under the shadow of their repressed memories.
I am thankful and grateful to all our diplomats who put themselves at risk to save not only my grandmother's sister Stella, great aunts Nelly and Irene, who told her story 15 days ago in tears , but also many other Jewish lives.
With the same respect I would also like to remember the lives of those victims of Struma and others who, because the same kind of humanitarian initiative was not taken, where sentinto the darkness of death.
Looking back at past events, at the 1925 publication of Mein Kampf, which contained the incurable poison of anti-Semitism; at the world's unresponsiveness to Krystallnacht, which turned out to be the final warning to an approaching tragedy; at the fifty-five million lives lost in the Second World War, as well as the eleven million who perished in gas chambers; at the Cold War, which imprisoned humanity with fear and paranoia and came to an end only when the Berlin Wall was torn down; looking back at all this, have we learned our lesson? Can we confront the future now, 70 years after one of the darkest periods in humanity?
I am grateful to be the child of a family who did not live through a holocaust in this land. I feel the power of unity in this very hall, but why, even while I am addressing you, do I have a deep sense of fear at the threat of what are only newly adapted versions of the hate speeches, false accusations and provocations of the ominous days to which I've just referred.
In trying to solve life's bitter truths, we don't really solve anything but rather create non-solutions. In doing this, aren't we causing more damage to humanity and to our beliefs? Aren't we, for the sake of our causes, creating victims just to gain support, while in the meantime, through our one-sided attitudes, we turn the real victims into the source of the crime?
How quickly we've lost the awareness that self-criticism is the first step to identifying social issues and failures in our quest to freedom, that the most ethical way to define freedom is not the freedom to do whatever we want but rather a freedom based on sensitivity towards differences. This ‘freedom' can only be achieved through education and can only be protected by the power of justice and not by the justice of the powerful.
While we globalize in economic terms and integrate ourselves through social media, why haven't we given the same priority to this ‘ethical freedom', which is our common denominator.
As the children of the One God, aren't we also the children of the Prophet Ibrahim, or, as we call him, Avraham Avinu, Abraham our father, who has been an example to all of us and who is the one who introduced us to this concept of "Ethical Freedom."
Didn't the Prophet Ibrahim and his God have any message for us, his children, so that we would neither be the victims nor the perpetrators of the holocausts of the world?
Our teachings tell us that Avraham Avinu lived during the era of Nimrod, one of the most vicious dictators in history. In his aim to create a totalitarian world aiming to exterminate God, Nimrod brainwashed the people with empty promises to the point where they lost their awareness of God. But God Himself intervened. By influencing their minds and diversifying their thinking, God createddifferent communities in which there where even those that could not understand one another, thus saving the World.
On the one hand, the Creator has taught us the necessity of taking swift and effective action against any nascent threat to humanity, while on the other hand He has taught us to protect and defend each other even when there is no consensus among parties with differences.
Even though the Prophet Ibrahim was the first person to stand against Nimrod, once he wanted to reach Godliness, God asked him to make a journey within himself.
God told Avraham Avinu that by questioning himself and by gaining inner peace through self-criticism, he could destroy his prejudices. As long as he could internalize loving kindness as a way of life then he could reach his Creator, who is above collective conscience.
The Prophet Ibrahim keeping his doors open never made his guests feel like outsiders, and argued with God so that He would not destroy Sodom, a city which had lost its ethical values. He was pained by the fact that the absence of even ten righteous people in that city was the reason for its destruction. Furthermore, he didn't hesitate when God commanded him to sacrifice his son in His name, and subsequently received the lesson of his life: he understood that God does not want us to sacrifice our children even for His sake, but rather he wants us to sacrifice our egos in order to hand down a livable world to our children.
As God provided space within Himself for humanity with the same awarenesswe should make space for humanity in order to provide the world with the love and understanding that it has been missing to fight with the dark angels we've created and made a part of our faiths.
As the representatives of Abrahamic faiths, we can follow his ways: not through ignorance but through equal opportunity and universal ethical values; not through how much we collectively possess but through how much we share; whatever the conditions are, instead of considering war as an option, raising societies that will be guardians of peace. Implemented into our educational system at its widest boundaries, we must make it our primary goal to integrate this philosophy from the earliest age, as Mr. Ihsan Dogramacı the founder of this university whom I remember with gratitude,did.
In this way, we can redeem within us our Creator whom we murdered at the gas chambers.
We, the children of Avraham Avinu, despite having experienced great pain, will continue to search for the Absolute Truth with the awareness that we can make mistakes until peace, understanding and brotherhood prevail.
The best answer to the Holocaust, and all the other pains that humanity has been through, is to ensure that our children do not experience that which our forebears have lived through.
Therefore, we should not allow the Holocaust to be forgotten, and most importantly, that we should not forget that the responsibility of not re-living holocausts are in our hands.
We believe and know that we can succeed in this, as long as we walk together hand in hand, in solidarity, with the richness of our differences.
I bow with humility before the pain and the loving memory of all those who died.