Each year, Israelis pause from their routines to ponder the fate of the six millions Jews who perished in the Holocaust, vowing to never again allow such an atrocity to occur.
Israel’s Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, is observed each year in the spring following the Passover holiday. Yom HaShoah occurs on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan and is marked by memorial ceremonies and the sounding of a siren throughout the entire country for two minutes at 10 a.m.
During these moments, wherever Israelis find themselves they stop–pulling over cars, halting buses, pausing from work–and the nation comes to a complete standstill.
In the past, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, has emphasized the significance of personal remembrance and survivor testimony, to restore the identities of individual victims, instead of viewing victims of genocide as a monolithic group.
On Wednesday evening, the State of Israel marked the official start of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, with an opening ceremony at Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, Mount of Remembrance, Jerusalem.
Among those present were Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yad Vashem Council Chairman Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, who kindled the Memorial Torch, and Zipora Nahir, who spoke on behalf of Holocaust survivors. Singers Amir Dadon and Meshi Kleinstein participated in the ceremony, along with the IDF Paratroopers’ Honor Guard and master of ceremony Sara Beck.
This year, Yom HaShoah is observed against a backdrop of heightened anti-Semitism in the West and Islamic world, in addition to rampant Holocaust denial and distortion in Eastern Europe.
Just last week, the Hamas terrorist organization waved a Nazi flag during violent riots organzied to breach sovereign Israeli territory and run roughshod over the Jewish state. Blood libels and Holocaust denial are another common trope in various corners of the Muslim world, with Palestinian Authority TV recently displaying an image of Holocaust victims and claiming outrageously that the prostrate figures in the photo were “Arabs killed by Jews.”
In Poland and Lithuania, there has been a steady push to deny the role of Nazi collaborators and portray citizens as passive victims of the Nazi occupation. Poland has gone so far as to pass a law criminalizing references to Polish complicity in Nazi war crimes. Lithuania for its part seeks to equate crimes by communists with Nazi genocide, to minimize the role of Lithuanians in the crimes of World War II.
In Israel, aging Holocaust survivors will gather to bear testimony to their own experience this year on Yom HaShoah, exposing younger generations to the ultimate horror hate can cause. Young and old join together to remember the brave souls, mothers, fathers, and children who perished at the hands of the Nazi monsters, and to utter that time-worn yet powerful refrain: “Never again.”