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Abba Kovner's Speech to the Jewish Brigade in Italy

But what shall we do if in our sick soul — or in our healed soul — we carry not only the image of the past but a vision of tomorrow. And we feel with all our senses the breath of the approaching slaughtering knife, the knife that waits in ambush in every corner of Europe, on all her roads and all her expanses. The new slaughtering knife came into being in the fields of Majdanek, Ponary, Treblinka, places where millions from tens of countries observed how it was done. How easily. How simply. How calmly. The new knife is rising in free Europe, where the pangs of guilt of millions of accessories to the murder are being transformed into the as yet unformed amorphous realization that it is permissible — and that it is worthwhile. I know — and no political prognosis or any other wisdom can convince me otherwise — that the coming war is not far off, that in spite of all the changes in Europe it is fast approaching. And I know that no matter who starts it and regardless of its character, its banner will be our necks, the necks of all of us. And I swear by God that I cannot bear the thought of both you and your children thus being led to the slaughter. And when I say “you”, I am not only thinking of you, the soldiers of our liberation movement, but also of these last remaining, near and far.

Excerpted from: Kovner, Abba, “The Mission of the Survivors”, in: Gutman, Yisrael and Rothkirchen, Livia (eds.), The Catastrophe of European Jewry, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1976, p. 674.

Source: Yad Vashem