More than 1,500 residents of the city of Sighet in northern Romania marched Sunday, together with senior officials from Israel and abroad and members of the Jewish community in Romania, in an event commemorating Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The procession marked the culmination of a unique series of special events held in the city in memory of Wiesel. The events were organized by Limmud FSU and March of the Living in cooperation with the Claims Conference and the World Zionist Organization.
The special procession left Elie Wiesel’s home and continued through the city until it reached the railway station from which Wiesel, his family and Jews from the entire region were sent to the Auschwitz death camp. This was the same route taken by the Jews, including the Wiesel family, in May 1944. During the ceremony, a memorial plaque was unveiled and the name of the train station was changed to “Elie Wiesel Station.
The event was attended by senior figures from Israel and the world, prominent rabbis, politicians and others, including MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid Party); Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel (Likud); JNF Chairman Danny Atar; Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler, Limmud FSU co-founder Sandra F. Cahn; Executive President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany Greg Schneider; President of the Romanian Jewish Community Dr. Aurel Vainer; outgoing Deputy Vice President of the Israeli Supreme Court Elyakim Rubinstein; Dr. Zvi Berkovich, Honorary consul of Romania in Israel; Limmud FSU Chair Matthew Bronfman; Rabbi Yitzhak Greenberg; Director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University Prof. Steven Katz and more.
MK Yair Lapid, who was among the speakers at the unveiling of the memorial plaque at the train station, said: “We came here to pay our respects to the late Elie Weisel, a dear person whose private memory has become the collective memory of an entire people. Elie Wiesel was a close friend of my father’s, and I had known him and his work since childhood. We are here to honor him for his contribution to the memory of the Holocaust, the fight against anti-Semitism and his work for the State of Israel.
Lapid also referred to the increasing phenomenon of anti-Semitism, particularly in the United States: “I believe that Trump is a true supporter of Israel, but I must admit that I was deeply disappointed by his lack of adequate response to the horrific expressions of anti-Semitism, which remind us all of the darkest periods in history and bring us back to the 1930s in Europe.
Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel said at the event: “Unfortunately, we still find ourselves having to deal with the hatred of Holocaust deniers and their supporters, the constant manifestation of anti-Semitism and the dangers caused by the ignorance of many. Therefore, it is our duty to continue this struggle waged by Elie Wiesel against hatred, fanaticism, and demons of the past.
Sandra F. Cahn, co-founder of Limmud FSU said during the event that: ”We fulfilled tonight our commitment to Limmud FSU’s mentor, Elie Wiesel – to present the unique opportunity to commemorate the memory of this city most prominent and admired citizen.”
Dr. Zvi Berkovich, Honorary consul of Romania in Israel and son of Holocaust survivors from the city of Sighet, delivered a special message from Prime Minister Netanyahu: “Benjamin Netanyahu deeply appreciated Elie Wiesel and his work. He hopes that events of this kind will be held every year, helping to emphasize the importance of the universal messages Elie Wiesel promoted worldwide – tolerance, brotherhood, and the obligation to remember and never forget.”