On may 26,1992,Israel’s President Chaim Herzog unveiled a rock from Jerusalem, at Auschwitz. The rock serves as a permanent memorial to the 1.65 million Jews who were murdered there.
Visibly anguished and tearful, President Herzog said the following words during the unveiling.
“In this dread place, I stand here brokenhearted. This ground on which we stand was drenched in the blood of the pure and holy. In this place, a fearful fire consumed all that was generously supplied by the Nazi annihilation machine. I stand here representing the state that came into being for us, the Jewish people, three years after the conclusion of the ineffable crime,”
The slab of rock from Jerusalem, inlaid with a memorial plaque, was intended for Auschwitz. But it took the Israeli president six months before his visit to convince the Polish authorities to place it at the site. The Poles agreed only after the personal intervention of President Lech Walesa.
Chaim Herzog was born in Belfast on September 17,1918. The family moved to Dublin when his father became chief rabbi of Ireland. Isaac Herzog was an ardent Zionist and Irish nationalist. Chaim was bar mitzvahed in Adelaide Road synagogue, and received his secular education at Wesley College. Proficient in cricket, rugby and boxing, he was Irish youth bantamweight champion.
Sent by his parents in 1935 to attend a Talmudic academy in Jerusalem, he joined the Haganah, the underground Jewish paramilitary force. He studied law at London University and was called to the bar in November 1942. Enlisting in the British army, after lengthy training he was posted in 1944 to Normandy as an intelligence officer.
Herzog participated in the liberation of several Nazi concentration camps as well as identifying a captured German soldier as Heinrich Himmler. After the German surrender, he was assigned to identify and interrogate top Nazi officials.
He left the British Army in 1947 with the rank of Major.
In Israel he directed Israel’s Labour Party’s public relations office in the 1981 general election, and won election to a Knesset seat. As Labour’s 1983 presidential candidate he attracted cross-party support, and was elected as the sixth president of Israel. After the deadlocked 1984 general election he played a major role in the formation of the “national unity” government.
On a 1985 state visit to Ireland he inaugurated the Irish Jewish Museum on Walworth Road in Dublin, and in 1987 became the first Israeli head of state to visit Germany. He was re-elected unopposed to a second five-year term in 1988.
He died on April,17 1997. His son Isaac Herzog is the current President of Israel.
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