IAF jets flew over Auschwitz: A symbol of national strength

Pilot who participated in the 2003 flight over Auschwitz held in honor Holocaust victims and displaying national resilience, speaks of the experience

Date: 19/04/2012, 1:52 PM     Author: Yael Livnat

In 2003, the IAF organized a flight over the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland in tribute to those six million Jews who died in the Holocaust. Three F-15 planes participated in the flyover, taking six crewmembers whose relatives are survivors of the Holocaust.

"Two months before I heard about the flyover, my sisters suggested I travel with them to Poland on journey to discover our roots. I refused because I didn't think that was the appropriate way to pay my respects to our ancestors. As soon as I heard about the flyover, I knew instantly that was the way I would take this journey," said Brig. Gen. (res.) Avi Maor, a former commander of Ramon Airbase.

"I decided that this was the most appropriate way, because it represents the state of Israel and the Jewish people in a way that takes on a different meaning, not just ‘what was done to us,' but a national strength, presenting Israel as being a strong country with a strong army," said Gen. Maor.


The experience of the flight

"The day of the flight was crazy," he recalled. "In the days before, the weather was pleasant and the visibility was good, and of course for the day of the flyover the skies clouded over. There was a lot of rain and it was freezing cold, jeopardizing the flight. In the briefing the morning before our flight, we sat shivering in the cold. To be honest, I don't think those tremors came from the cold, but from the excitement for what we were about to do," said Gen. Maor.

"From the moment of take-off it was all very technical, like every flight. Only a year later, after we all met up, did we discover that we all experienced the same phenomenon as soon as we moved over Auschwitz. We were in tandem aircrafts, and usually we talk a lot during the flight. The same second, we all fell silent. A silence so loud, as if something heavy had fallen on the air and we all understood exactly the magnitude of what we were doing."

Gen. Maor held several impressive positions in the Air Force. Two weeks ago, Gen. Maor finished his flight duty period and said that "when you get to this moment you look back at the flights you have, and examine those more successful and which those less." He added that "during my service I flew hundreds of flight hours, I fought and shot down MiGs in combat, but today, I have no doubt that the flyover Auschwitz was the most significant and successful flight of my life."

For the flyover, the planes passed the camp in an arrowhead, clearly visible from the ground, where 200 soldiers from the "Witnesses in Uniform" delegation stood in formation. During the flight, the general read the following sentence to his companions, which has become a symbol of the entire flyover: "We, Israeli Air Force pilots, in the skies above this camp of horrors, rose from the ashes of millions of victims. We carry their silent cries, salute their heroism and promise to be a shield for the Jewish people and their country, Israel."