Reden - Speeches
Speaking at the opening of the Markus and Rose Javor-Center
27 December, 2011 in Herzliya
By Erwin Javor
Dear Madam Mayor!
Dear Mr. Deputy Mayor!
After my father died, my mother, together with the City of Herzliya, originally built a centre in 1984 and she took great interest in the development until her death. And just little aside about Herzliya. Herzl was Viennese, came from Budapest and longed for Israel. A little parallel with my own life. We were all very proud that such a positive project and all the components of it being brought to life here, has been named after my father. Immediately after my mother’s death I too continued to develop the idea, and now, with the help of the City, the architects and the management, and with the support of my wife and our son Daniel, I am able to hand over this centre as he would have wished. I confess that I am overwhelmed by my emotions. For me, this is an important day. And now I'll tell you why. In his Galician Shtetl my father had seen scholarly pious Jews, forced by SS-thugs to ride on top of one another. They had to crawl on all fours. Other especially heavy Jews, were forced to sit on them like jockeys and then ride for the amusement of the Nazis who bet on them. At that time my father began to have doubts and wondered if the Nazis weren’t perhaps right. Were we not we actually sub-human? How else could it be that those who had been so admired for their education and wisdom could sink so low? And what had become of him himself? How could he watch these goings on without turning on the tormentors? After the war, my father saw a single Russian soldier, armed with a submachine gun, guarding hundreds of German prisoners. They were just as dirty, scared, bent and humiliated as the Jews had been in front of them. Hundreds of Germans had not fought back - against the one Russian. It was then my father first realised that anyone, no matter who, can, under the right circumstances, be made subhuman. But my parents and my sister also belonged to the generation that had, out of the swamps and desert of Israel, built the Jews’ own independent state, and defended it against overwhelming military force. The survivors of the Shoah had in the space of just a few years looked into the human abyss. But it was also they who had realised the dream of the founding of Israel. They survived the hell of humiliation and experienced the soaring heights of being proud Israelis. An incredible span of emotions. My generation and the generation of my children has never felt this abyss in their beings. We are not Shoah survivors, but we are Holocaust victims. Our parents taught us we had always better keep a case packed. I have three children, one of them lives in Israel, one in the US, and one is always going back and forth between Austria and Israel. My parents taught me what it means to lead a proud and upright life as a Jew. I try to pass this on to my children. My son Daniel managed it first. He does what I would have like to have done in my life. He lives here and I envy and regret this simultaneously. Since Israel, as well as giving its love and being loved by the people, also has difficulties, absurdities, and other surprises in store. If Daniel makes it here - and I am convinced he will - then he can make it anywhere in the world. Also, in this centre, people from several generations meet daily. Holocaust survivors, freedom fighters for Israel, their children and grandchildren. What makes this place so special and important is the fact that intergenerational shared values are being lived here. Here it isn’t the past being lived out, but the present and the future.
I think, at this point especially, of my sister, who out of despair at not being allowed to emigrate to Israel, tragically committed suicide at the age of 14. Today on Chanuka, the national festival of liberation, my wife and I, on behalf of my parents and my sister, hope that this centre will make a small contribution to the positive development of beautiful Herzliya.