President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin’s remarks this evening, Saturday 22 December / 14 Tevet, on the passing of Simcha ‘Kozik’ Rotem, the last of the fighters from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising:
“This evening, we part from Kozik, the young man who became Simcha Rotem, the last of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters. Kozik went back to the ghetto in 1942, at the age of 18, three months after his parents sent him to Radom so he could escape the fate of most Polish Jews. He heard what was happening in the ghetto and had to be there.
When he got there, he found himself wandering amongst the ruins, searching in vain for voices and faces. He only found death and destruction. ‘I sat in those ruins,’ he said in his testimony, ‘not knowing exactly where I was, but I knew I was in the ghetto. ….I imagined that I was the last Jew in the ghetto, or in all of Warsaw.’
Kozik was not the last Jew in the Warsaw Ghetto. He joined the uprising and helped save dozens of fighters, including two of its leaders, Antek Zukerman and Zvia Lubetkin. When he immigrated to Israel after the war, Kozik established a home and a family and served the country in a range of positions that he could only have dreamed of when he sat, head in his hands, desperate and terrified in the ruins of the ghetto. The man who thought he was the last Jew in the ghetto and in all of Warsaw, became the last living fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
When asked about the message he would want to pass on to Israeli youth, he answered: “To be a human being. We are animals on two legs. No more than that – that’s what I think, that’s what I feel. But amongst us animals, the two-legged ones, there are some who are also human beings, and who deserve the name.”
Thank you for everything, Kozik. We promise to try, every day, to be worth of the name ‘human being’.”
Minister Bennett instructs schools to mark the passing of Simcha Rotem
Following the passing of the last surviving fighter of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Simcha Rotem (Kazik), Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett, this morning asked that schools across Israel will tomorrow mark Simcha’s life and great heroism. Minister Bennett said, “During the Sabbath, Simcha Rotem, the last survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, passed away. I instructed the Director-General of the Ministry of Education to hold a memorial day in his memory tomorrow, so we will remember that in the dark days of the Holocaust there was also great heroism, thanks to which we have risen from the Shoah to rebirth.” He added, “Tomorrow, during the school day, students will learn about his life.”