“When Hashem thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which Hashem thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget.” Deuteronomy 25:19 (The Israel Bible™)
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on January 27, is a day set aside by the UN to memorialize victims of the Holocaust, encourage educational programs about one of the darkest times in history, and prevent future acts of genocide.
To that end, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) runs a meaningful program called, “Witnesses in Uniform”. The program, funded by Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers and IFCJ, sends hundreds of IDF officers and reservists to Germany and Poland to visit concentration and death camps, the ghettos and the old communities of destroyed European Jewry.
The program, in part, demonstrates that the Nazis did not succeed in their desire to annihilate the Jewish people. Rather, the atrocities of World War II lead to the establishment of the State of Israel and a strong Jewish army. This army strives tirelessly to ensure that “never again” will the enemies of God’s chosen people succeed in murdering relentlessly His people.
“With the passing of over seven decades since the end of the Holocaust, there are fewer and fewer witnesses and more and more people lacking knowledge of this terrible time in history,” explained Brigadier General Yehiel Gozal, CEO of Yahad-United for Israel’s Soldiers, told Breaking Israel News. “‘Witnesses in Uniform’ provides Israeli soldiers with a direct educational and emotional link to the Holocaust in order that they return to the Holy Land as strengthened emissaries, able to strengthen other IDF soldiers in knowing the importance of their mission in the army.”
Six million European Jews, as well as millions of others, were murdered by the Nazi regime. “That is practically the entire population of people living in Israel today,” noted Gozal. “This is difficult to imagine and crucial to remember.”
As International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established as an official opportunity to prevent Holocaust denial through education and any manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief, “Witnesses in Uniform“ plays a formative role in the IDF’s educational programming. “The Israeli army is the most moral and ethical one in the world,” continued Gozal. “Sending a delegation of our soldiers within the framework of this important project strengthens all we stand for.”
Soldiers who participate in “Witnesses in Uniform” receive a special badge which is proudly worn on their uniforms. As part of the program, IDF soldiers join the “March of the Living” in Poland, representing the State of Israel and her army. All of the soldiers on the program state that, despite the freezing weather, they remove their coats to ensure that their IDF uniforms are visible for all to see.
“We marched proudly, with our heads held high and our backs straight knowing that we are now granted the right to protect the Jewish people and are the first Jewish army in 2,000 years,” said an IDF participant. “Many of us cried, whether outwardly or in our hearts, recognizing that, had we had an Jewish army 75 years ago, the Holocaust could never have happened. We also cried with pride that we are soldiers in Israel’s army today.”
“A strong Israeli army declares that the Jewish people are finally in charge of our own destiny,” said Gozal. “The IDF officers who participate in ‘Witnesses in Uniform’ are assigned with the task of being the voice of those murdered in the Holocaust, the voice of strength, pride and remembrance.”
Soldiers participating in the “Witnesses in Uniform” trip receive extensive study and preparation. This includes touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem and studying Jewish history in general and specifically the Holocaust. Additionally, a Holocaust survivor travels with the soldiers, sharing their personal story and contributing their perspective on the Holocaust.
“Soldiers who participate in ‘Witnesses in Uniform’ come back to Israel more inspired and happier with their lives and their service in the army, closer to their families, and more connected and prouder of their country,” smiled Gozal. “They gain clarity that there is no other country for the Jewish people than Israel and spread that recognition to others.”
To donate towards crucial programs provided to Israel’s soldiers, please visit here.