Holocaust Memorial Day: Remaing Vigilant

Holocaust Memorial Day, Yom HaShoah, is observed as Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and for the Jewish resistance during that period. Here, it is a national memorial day and public holiday. It is held on the 27th of Nisan, which this year corresponds to April 12th.

Tonight, the President of the State of Israel, the Prime Minister, dignitaries, Holocaust survivors and their families and others gathered at Yad Vashem to participate in the Central Ceremony Marking Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. During the ceremony six torches representing the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust were kindled.

Addressing those gathered, Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, had this to say: “We must never return to the beastly conception according to which there is such a thing as a supreme man, or supreme regime, or supreme race which can do whatever it sees fit”.

Earlier in his remarks, Peres said that with night falling on all of Israel, evening had also fallen “not long ago on Antopol, Zhoromin, Rodnik and Mikhalova; towns where three quarters of their population were wiped out. Not a single Jew is left.

Night has fallen on the village of Tostanovitza, where 2,803 Jews were murdered; on Libau in Latvia, where 7,101 Jews were murdered; on Khelm by Lublin from which 15,000 Jews were sent to their death,” Peres said, adding that “darkness has also started covering the shadows of Dachau, Auschwitz and Birkenau, as well as Vishnive, where I was born and visited again as an Israeli minister, with not even one wooden beam left from the Jewish homes and the synagogue.”

Recalling the trip to his childhood town, Peres said he “visited the well that stood in our backyard. The water did not burn. I drew the bucket to taste the wasters of my childhood, and the water burned in my mouth, the taste of the fire which destroyed the town’s people, my family, who remained there.

This night spread like a mourner’s hut on the thousands of communities whose existence became a petrified tombstone, whose people and culture burned to ashes.

A sundown covering the devastated synagogues and shuls, theaters and cultural institutions, the books that were set alight, the schools that turned to ashes. All erased, the lives, the houses, the culture, a world’s smoky embers.

That fire will continue to burn within us, as an impossible farewell to our six million brothers, men, women, and elderly people, to a million and a half of our children, an immense potential of life and talent that was annihilated, an unreturnable loss.”

Tomorrow at 10 am, air raid sirens will sound nationwide – beginning two minutes of silence, and hundreds of ceremonies will be held at schools, IDF bases and various institutions. Throughout the day the names of Holocaust victims are publicly recited in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem. Towards evening, the annual Ceremony for Youth Movements is held in the Valley of the Communities.

(An earlier version of this post appeared prior to the Central Ceremony. The post was updated to include the quotes from Israel’s President.)