Warsaw ghetto survivor Irene Shashar has boldly told Members of the European Parliament: “Hitler did not win!” She addressed MEPs in a plenary session in Brussels on 25 January to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In a highly charged debate, she described how she survived the horrors of Nazism in Warsaw as a “Holocaust Hidden Child”. This, she said, involved fleeing through a sewer to the Aryan side of Warsaw where her mother’s friends supported them.
“I was blessed with the opportunity to have children and grandchildren. I did the very thing Hitler tried so hard to prevent. Hitler did not win!”
Feeling unsafe in Israel
Speaking about the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the terrorist attacks of 7 October, she said that she left her country “in the wake of violence, murder, rape, and terror” and asked MEPs for their solidarity and support to see the hostages be reunited with their families.
Reflecting on the situation in Europe, Shashar “the resurgence of antisemitism means that the hate of the past is still with us. Jews are again not feeling safe living in Europe. After the Holocaust, this should be unacceptable. ‘Never again’ should truly mean never again.”
She declared that her dream was that “my children, all children, live in a peaceful Middle East, one that is free of hate, especially towards us, the Jews. In my dream, Jews find safety and security anywhere they choose to call home. And antisemitism is finally a thing of the past.”
Concluding, Shashar told the Euro MPs that while she had won against Hitler, her grandchildren must now fight for their survival.
“I call upon you, the parliament of Europe, to help make my dream come true. Together with you we can end antisemitism and achieve a lasting peace.”
International Holocaust Remembrance Day
After Shashar’s speech, MEPs observed a minute’s silence. The ceremony closed with a musical performance by Sheva Tehoval and Marcelo Nisinman of Kaddish by Maurice Ravel.
When her father was killed by the Nazis, Shashar escaped the ghetto with her mother and was in hiding for the rest of war. She and her mother then moved to Paris. Following her mother’s death, she moved to Peru where she was adopted by relatives.
After studying in the US, she moved to Israel at the age 25 and became the youngest faculty member to hold a post at the Hebrew University. Today she lives in Modiin, Israel and, in 2023, she published her autobiography I won against Hitler.
We will remember
In the same debate, European Parliament president Roberta Metsola told MEPs: “We pay tribute today to the victims of the Holocaust and reaffirm our unwavering commitment against antisemitism, racism and other forms of hate. Europe remembers.”
Warning that the complicit silence of many made the Nazi horrors possible, the MEP underlined that, “the European Parliament is not a place of indifference – we speak against Holocaust deniers, against disinformation and against violence”.
“We will listen to your story. We will take your lessons with us. We will remember”, she said.