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Premier McGuinty Pays Tribute To Survivors Holocaust Survivors At Annual Ceremony

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Premier McGuinty Pays Tribute To Survivors Holocaust Survivors At Annual Ceremony

Office of the Premier

Yad Vashem literally means "a monument and a name."

It comes from a verse from Isaiah:

"I will give them, in my house and in my walls, a monument and a name, an everlasting name that shall never be cut off."

Today, we build our own monument of remembrance by honouring 18 Holocaust survivors who have made enduring and invaluable contributions to Ontario.

Today, on behalf of the people of Ontario, I want to say thank you to each of our distinguished honourees.

Thank you for being here today, for all that you have brought to us, done for us, given us.

Thank you for having the courage and the selflessness to tell your story to us, because we want to hear your stories.

We need to hear your stories.

Because it is through stories that we build our shared memory of what has passed, so we can share a common purpose for our future.

I come from a family where words and stories were cherished.

My father was a professor of English Literature.

He taught me that words are powerful, enduring and alive.

And it occurs to me that Judaism is a faith that also understands the power of words: from the holy words of the Tanakh, to the words spoken and written of your history, to the words of wisdom, poetry and stories passed down and preserved for generations.

And those words have helped inspire a people, build a nation and change the world.

So we know that coming together to share stories is important -- that stories have power and purpose.

We will hear some of those stories today.

The stories Gertie Gotlieb and Luba Drewnowsky tell are of almost unimaginable loss.

Both lost nearly their entire families and were forced to work in munitions factories, building weapons of war with their own innocent hands.

Alexander Levin survived the massacre that killed both his parents and after living in a cave for more than a year, he joined the Red Army.

Herschel Perl lost all his siblings and his mother to the death camps, and when he finally found freedom in Canada, he struggled to find a job -- because he insisted on keeping the Sabbath.

That faith drove him to found a kosher foods company to serve his fellow Jews who had chosen to make Canada their home.

These stories -- and others -- are stories of tragedy and terrible loss.

But they are also stories of great hope and, ultimately, of triumph.

The 18 men and women we honour today have faced humanity at its worst and have gone on to exemplify humanity at its best.

Your journey out of the nightmare of the Holocaust brought you to Ontario, in pursuit of what, for so many years, must have seemed an impossible dream.

Not just a life free from war.

Not just a life lived in peace -- but life itself.

You have achieved that dream by working hard, by sacrificing and by telling your stories, so that the atrocities you endured will not be forgotten and so that they will never happen again.

You've achieved that dream for yourselves, and for your children, your grandchildren and for our entire community.

Ontario is so much better, so much stronger, because you chose to make it your home.

On behalf of 13 million Ontarians, let me say to you.

We will not forget your cruel suffering.

We will not forget your courageous survival.

We are grateful for your magnificent contribution to our shared quality of life.

You inspire us.

You lift us up.

You teach us so much, because of the stories you have shared and the lives you have lived.

In the words of the poem we have just heard, you teach us that goodness is not less powerful than evil.

You are the proof.

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