When we gather in places like Babi Yar, Auschwitz or Ponary, to honour the memory of the murdered victims, we helplessly search for the right words and phrases. Some, like Pope Francis, who recently visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, choose silence, which, in his case, was broken only for a short while, for the recitation of Psalm 130.
"Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!"
It is understandable that in the face of the Holocaust, the living seek consolation in prayer. It is also understandable that we most often choose silence, because silence can be louder than a scream. We look for ways to honour the victims in the most dignified and suitable manner, to move into the shadow, in order to see better and to better understand what happened here, and in other places of Shoah. To better understand what happened with us, with the people and with the world, in the abyss we have found ourselves together with the victims, the perpetrators, and the witnesses. Yes, common silence and common prayer are indeed appropriate in such a place and time. But silence and prayers by themselves will not be enough if we want to avoid the great moral danger, which was, and still is, present in our collective experience. According to Timothy Snyder, a historian of the Holocaust, (and his reflection is still relevant today), "The moral danger after all, is never that one might become a victim but that one might be a perpetrator or a bystander."
This is why, when we stand in silence at this mass grave, we need to remember that it is our daily duty to cry out at the top of our voice, and to act - always - when innocent people are killed, when the strong attack the weak, when children become the target of warplanes and rockets.
Confronted with evil and violence, humankind cannot be divided only into victims, perpetrators and bystanders. We must try to emulate those, who are called the Righteous Among the Nations. If we do not, why should the Lord hear our voice? Why should his ears be attentive to our pleas for mercy?
Tomorrow, we will say our last goodbye to one of those who believed that violence need not dominate in today's world, to Shimon Peres. I know that he is here with us now. Let his belief, and that of others, that evil can be overcome only by good, be guidance to us all. Thank you.