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Wail of sirens marks Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A 2-minute siren wail which began in Israel at 10 a.m. Thursday marked the beginning of Yom HaShoah, the country's Holocaust Remembrance Day. Israelis across the nation paused their daily activities for a moment of silence in memory of the six million Jews murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust during World War II. Drivers turned off their vehicles and stood at attention in the middle of the road, and pedestrians stopped and bowed their heads. Names of victims were read aloud in the Knesset, the legislature of Israel.

Flags at half-mast on Yom HaShoah in Israel (2006)
Image: Joe Goldberg.

Individuals laid wreaths at a memorial for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising at Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. National ceremonies began at Yad Vashem on Wednesday evening, with the lighting of a flame by a Holocaust survivor. In all six torches were lit, in memory of the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust. Approximately 270,000 survivors of the Holocaust live in Israel today, 80,000 of whom survived Nazi death camps.

Entertainment venues, theaters, and movie cinemas closed shop at sundown Wednesday. Television stations and radio programming focused on memorial of the Holocaust. Memorial events end at sunset on Thursday, and will be followed one week later by the 60th anniversary of the declaration of independence of Israel in 1948, known as Yom Ha'atzmaut.

Cquote1.svg A leader who plans mass destruction, together with weapons of mass destruction. What would have been left of our world? Cquote2.svg

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres, Israel's President, spoke at Yad Vashem, and compared the potential danger which Israel says is posed by Iran's nuclear program, to that faced by Jews during the Holocaust. "In history, it is forbidden to be late," said Peres, saying that the world reacted too late to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. "My heart shudders when I recall that there was a possibility that Hitler could acquire nuclear weapons. A leader who plans mass destruction, together with weapons of mass destruction. What would have been left of our world?" asked Peres. Aides later stated that Peres was referring to Iran.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also referred to Iran in his remarks at Yad Vashem. "You wish to deny the right of existence of the Jewish state, and you are wrong to believe that the Jewish state was created only due to the Holocaust. The Holocaust only underscored the necessity of its creation and the horrible price that the Jewish people had to pay for the lack of existence of a state that can shelter them," said Olmert. Other speakers at Yad Vashem emphasized the importance of the Israel Defense Forces, Israel's military forces, to prevent tragedies such as the Holocaust in the future.

Cquote1.svg We have learned our lesson and we take very seriously the threats of state leaders who call for the destruction of Israel. Cquote2.svg

Gabi Ashkenazi

Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, military chief of staff of Israel, led an annual march of Jewish youths, Poles and survivors at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, in a memorial ceremony called The March of the Living. Auschwitz-Birkenau operated as a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust. 12,000 people gathered from 52 countries to take part in the memorial ceremony. The largest march took place in 2005, and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon joined with 20,000 people. "... in these days, as we celebrate 60 years of independence, the fact that an independent Jewish state exists is not something to be taken for granted. Even today, we hear the horrible sounds of those who call for the destruction of the state of Israel. Even today we are forced to continue and fight for our right to have a national home in a safe place for the Jewish people in their own land. We have learned our lesson and we take very seriously the threats of state leaders who call for the destruction of Israel," said Ashkenazi.

The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel
Image: David Shankbone.

Hamas television Thursday suggested that the Holocaust was organized by Jews to wipe out the disabled among their own people to prepare for the creation of a Jewish state. "The Israeli Holocaust - the whole thing was a joke, and part of the perfect show that (Zionist leader and future Israeli prime minister) Ben Gurion put on," said head of the Palestinian Centre for Strategic Research Amin Dabur, according to Jerusalem-based Palestinian Media Watch. Dabur said that the "young energetic and able" went to Israel, and that those who were disabled were sent "so there would be a Holocaust".

Though Iran has said that its nuclear program is peaceful in nature, the United States, Israel, and other countries believe it is attempting to construct nuclear weapons. In speeches Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the Jewish state should be destroyed. Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust "a myth". Tehran hosted a revisionist Holocaust conference in 2006, which provoked international criticism. Tel Aviv University published a study on Monday saying that acts of anti-Semitism in 2007 increased by about seven percent over 2006.


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Sources

  Learn more about Yom HaShoah and The Holocaust on Wikipedia.