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Israel gears up to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day
By SAM SOKOL
04/27/2014
The theme of this year's opening ceremony at Yad Vashem is “Jews On the Edge 1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation,” where 6 survivors will light torches.
 
On Sunday evening and Monday Israelis will mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day with memorials across the country. The commemoration of the six million European Jews murdered by the Germans will commence with torch lighting ceremony attended by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and other senior officials at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, as well as Lau’s father, Israel Meir Lau, himself a former chief rabbi and chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, will also be present.

Six Holocaust survivors are slated to light torches, each representing one million victims. Following the opening ceremony, whose theme this year is “Jews On the Edge 1944: Between Annihilation and Liberation,” Yad Vashem will hold a symposium on Holocaust remembrance in Israel at Tel Aviv’s Habimah Theater.

Yom HaShoah this year comes only weeks after Frazier Glenn Miller, an elder white supremacist, killed three people at a Kansas Jewish Community Center. As he was taken away by police following the shooting, the former Klansman shouted Heil Hitler. The memory of the Holocaust has been at the center of several political disputes this year, with Ukrainians and Russians trading barbs of antisemitism and unknown actors urging Jews in Eastern Ukraine to register themselves.

Almost a third of Jews in several European countries are mulling emigration as a response to heightened anti-Jewish sentiment, the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights revealed earlier this year. Bans and campaigns against ritual slaughter and circumcision have made many European Jews anxious about their communities’ continued viability in the long term. This anxiety is further compounded by the rise of far right nationalist parties, such as France’s Front Nationale, Greece’s Golden Dawn and Ukraine’s Svoboda.

Hungary’s Jobbik party, deemed a neo-Nazi faction by the World Jewish Congress, won twenty percent of the vote in Parliamentary elections earlier this month, foreshadowing gains many experts expect the far right to make during next month’s balloting for the European Parliament.

Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry will present its findings on worldwide antisemitism in 2013 on Sunday morning as a prelude to Yom HaShoah.

Israel’s official governmental commemorations will continue on Monday morning with a Wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem and the recitation of the names of Holocaust victims’ names. The names of victims will also be read at the Knesset.

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra will play a concert entitled "Kaddish – I Am Here” at the Jerusalem Theater on Monday evening.

The B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael will hold a joint memorial “commemorating the heroism of Jews who rescued fellow Jews during the years of torment in Europe” on Monday morning at the Martyr’s Forest “Scroll of Fire” Plaza.

The two groups will award Jewish Rescuers Citations to honor seven Jewish rescuers.

“The phenomena of Jewish rescue and the instructive stories of thousands of Jews who labored to save their endangered brethren throughout Europe are yet to receive appropriate public recognition and resonance,” the two organizations said in a statement. “Many who could have tried to flee preferred to stay and rescue others; some paid for it with their lives. With great heroism Jews in every country in occupied Europe employed subterfuge, forgery, smuggling, concealment and other methods to ensure that some Jews survived the Holocaust in Europe or assisted them in escaping to a safe heaven and by doing resisted the Nazi murder machine.”

The European Union of Jewish Students is currently conducting a seminar on Holocaust commemoration in our generation in Macedonia which will continue through Wednesday.

“As Jewish student unions, we take our responsibility in honoring the memory of the victims and survivors very seriously - asking ourselves how we can make our Holocaust education and commemoration programming relevant to our peers and to future generations,” EUJS explained.

To mark the 70th anniversary of the mass deportation and murder of over 585,000 Hungarian Jews during World War II, hundreds of highschool students from across the globe will travel by train from Budapest to Auschwitz, where they will join 10,000 other students to march to the Birkenau extermination camp.

President Janos Ader is scheduled to honor the memory of the Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust and proclaim his opposition to ongoing anti-Semitism.

The Hungarian Jewish community has been engaged in a high profile dispute with the government, boycotting official Holocaust memorials over allegedly revisionist narratives being promulgated by the ruling administration.

The government began construction earlier this month of the statue memorializing German occupation of the former Nazi ally in 1944, despite assuring the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (Mazsihisz) that it would not do so until after consulting with the Jewish representative body.

The statue will depict a Germanic eagle descending on the angel Gabriel, a Hungarian symbol, and bear inscriptions reading “German occupation of Hungary, March 19, 1944” and “To the memory of all victims,” but will make no explicit reference to the Jewish community.

According to the Mazsihisz, the erection of a statue depicting Hungary as a quiescent and passive victim is inaccurate and serves to absolve the Nazi ally from responsibility for its actions.

The government’s actions, former community President Peter Feldmajer told the Jerusalem Post last week, are “an attack on the dignity of the Jewish community.”

The issue of the Holocaust has also played a role in recent moves by England to shame Poland into instituting reparations to Holocaust survivors for property confiscated during the Second World War.

Poland recently instituted a limited legalization of ritual slaughter for internal Jewish communal consumption, after banning the practice last January.

Dan Eisenbud contributed to this report.
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