04/03/2016 24 Adar Alef 5776
On the second day of the conference, the rabbis came to Platform 17 in Berlin’s train station. This was one of the principal locations from which some 55,000 Jews were transported from Berlin the ghettos of Lodz, Warsaw and Riga, or to the Auschwitz death camp. A contingent of reporters from Germany and from a number of European media outlets arrived to cover the event. Afterward they interviewed the rabbis and asked them to share their impressions of the experience.
Rabbi Shmuel Segal, director of Berlin’s Chabad House, opened the ceremony with a short introductory message. Next, Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, rabbi of Berlin’s Jewish community, spoke briefly about the atrocities committed by the Nazis 75 years ago, comparing it to the way Jews are treated in Berlin today. He ended with the recitation of a perek of Tehillim, then he kindled six candles in memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov Lichtenstein, Rav and Av Beis Din of the London Federation of Synagogues and member of the RCE’s presidium, is a child of victims of the Holocaust. When he was invited to recite a chapter of Tehillim, he stood silently for a long moment, barely able to contain his emotions. “I cannot recite a perek of Tehillim without first focusing on my family members who were sent from this place with unfathomable cruelty to the Valley of Death. Here stood grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, children and infants, all of whom were condemned to die simply because they were Jews. We, their descendants, rabbis of Jewish communities throughout Europe, stand here today as living proof that Judaism is eternal – Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker!” Rabbi Lichtenstein then recited a perek of Tehillim.
After this, the tefillah of El Malei Rachamim was chanted, followed by Kaddish recited by Rabbi Ron Chassid of Gibraltar. The rabbis then began spontaneously, quietly singing Ani Maamin as they walked along the length of the platform.