Israel to mark Holocaust Day with Yad Vashem ceremony, nationwide sirens

By Nir Hasson


Events for Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Day will begin Sunday evening with an official ceremony at 8 P.M. in the Warsaw Ghetto yard at Yad Vashem, in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and chairman of the Yad Vashem Board, Rabbi Meir Lau. The ceremony will focus on the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust.

Six Holocaust survivors will light torches commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The survivors are: Eliezer Ayalon, Leo Luster, Sarah Israeli, Hana Gafrit, Baruch Shuv and Yakov Zim.

At 10 A.M. on Monday a siren will wail as the country observes a minute’s silence, to be followed by a ceremony at Yad Vashem and the laying of wreaths. Monday afternoon, a special exhibition of the works of Holocaust survivors will open at Yad Vashem.

In an interview to Haaretz, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev noted a number of trends in the attitudes toward the Holocaust in Israel and the world during the past year. The most notable trend in recent years, he says, is a dramatic rise in interest in the Holocaust and its commemoration throughout the world.

“There is growing interest in teaching about the Holocaust, and we have had many indications to this effect; we have conducted more than 70 seminars for teachers from all over the world,” he said.

Yad Vashem’s staff also point to a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the institution’s Web site. If the current pace continues, by year’s end more than 15 million people would have spent more than 12 minutes at a time reviewing the Web site – a 50 percent increase compared to last year. Most of the new visitors to the Web site are from outside Israel.

On the other hand, Shalev said that “there are troubling signs of problematic treatment of the memory [of the Holocaust] mostly in Eastern Europe, where they are building their national identities in relation to Russia, but also in relation to their past. In some cases the national identity runs parallel with collaboration with Nazis.”

Another problem is the rise of the relativist approach to the Holocaust, as expressed by the European Parliament’s decision to set a single day that commemorates suffering in the hands of totalitarian regimes – the Nazis and the Soviets.

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