USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) welcomed aboard a group of distinguished Israeli guests May 10, to see the ship and interact with Sailors in honor of the May 2, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The visitors spent the day touring the ship whose namesake was an ardent supporter of creating a Jewish state in Palestine and one of the first to recognize the new nation of Israel in 1948.
During the evening, Truman held a ceremony featuring speaker Eliezer Shahaf, a retired Israeli navy captain and Holocaust survivor, and professor Dina Porat, the head of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel-Aviv University.
In a moving speech, Shahaf told the story of the hardships he and his mother faced in Nazi Germany.
"It's very emotional for me to be here today on this ship," Shahaf said. "This is the first time I've actually told my story. I never did it before."
Born in 1941 in the midst of the Nazi terrors, Shahaf was delivered at home to avoid being killed in a German or Polish hospital where infanticide of Jewish babies was common practice. His tale includes life in the ghetto, the execution of his father at Auschwitz and a harrowing flight through Europe to escape Israel.
"This story proves again not only the love of the mother, the will for the survivor, the strength of human spirit, but also the existence of small acts of kindness… [which] are points of light in this story," said Shahaf.
After Shahaf told his story, Porat spoke about the importance of remembering the Holocaust, and how the Jewish people put back together their shattered lives. During the war, she said there was a great migration of refugees to Palestine.
"These 360,000 people came, and they came destitute. They came with no shirt on. They came with terrible experiences," Porat said. "They started afresh and became part and parcel of Israeli life and of life in Jewish communities elsewhere in the world. The way they recovered, the way they started afresh, the way they integrated into society is amazing."
She said after their great suffering, the Jewish people did not seek revenge. They only tried to rebuild and live as they had before.
"The best revenge that the people thought of as individuals and as public was to have a new family, to have a new profession, to study what you couldn't when they deprived you of your studies, to build a new Jewish community wherever in the world, to build the state of Israel," Porat said.
Porat discussed how the Holocaust is not just an integral part of Jewish cultural heritage, but a lesson for the rest of the world to follow because it shows how hate can lead to injustice and human suffering.
"The Holocaust is not just the past and not just a part of Jewish or Israeli memories...It came because of racism and bigotry...When you think about it this way, you realize democracy is the only way," Porat said. "If it is studied broadly, universally, it is a way to keep the next generations, to keep it away from mischief to have it live with a bright and free and fine future."
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