Jews worldwide mark Yom HaShoah

Here in Israel Thursday’s commemorations began with the sounding of the Holocaust memorial siren at 10am.

April 16, 2015 19:09
4 minute read.
Holocaust  Remembrance Day

A memorial candle for Holocaust Remembrance Day. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

World Jewry commemorated Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, on Thursday, holding memorials and educational activities in communities across the Diaspora and in Israel.

New Yorkers gathered at the Holocaust Memorial Park in Brooklyn focused on modern manifestations anti-Semitism and xenophobia, according to the Brooklyn Reader. The event was attended by members of the city council and state assembly.

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Theatre groups across the United States held readings of Holocaust plays this week in an initiative organized by the National Jewish Theater Foundation, the Sun Herald reported.

In Germany, the head of the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany called on his government to recognize the Turkish murder of Armenians during the First World War as a Genocide. There are those who believe that Hitler was emboldened to escalate his action’s against Europe’s Jews based on the lack of international reaction to the Armenian genocide.

“One hundred years ago, in the government of the Ottoman Empire ordered the deportation of one million Armenians. They were murdered directly, or died of starvation and dehydration in the desert,” Josef Schuster, the head of the Jewish organization, told Der Tagesspiegal, according to a translation provided by the World Jewish Congress.

“These terrible events should be called what they were: a genocide.”

Here in Israel Thursday’s commemorations began with the sounding of the Holocaust memorial siren at 10am, which was turned on by eighty six year old July Zelmanowicz, a Ukrainian child survivor.

As the siren sounded citizens across the country stood still, stopping whatever they were doing as highways, industries and commercial centers suddenly came to a standstill.

Thousands of elderly survivors passed the day in residential facilities operated by Amigour, the Jewish Agency for Israel's sheltered housing subsidiary, the group said in a statement.

Over six thousand survivors live in the Jewish Agency provided housing.

A planned wreath laying ceremony at Yad Vashem took place as planned even as it was moved inside due to inclement weather following the sounding of the siren. It was attended by President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other dignitaries.

Ceremonies featuring the reading of names of Holocaust victims were held both in the Knesset and at Yad Vashem, which also ran a memorial ceremony for youth movements attended by Director General of the Ministry of Education Michal Cohen.

Zionist Union leader and presumptive head of the opposition Isaac Herzog spoke at a memorial at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum while the Jewish National Fund and B’nai B’rith held a memorial at Jerusalem’s Martyrs’ Forest to posthumously honor a Greek rabbi who led partisans against the Nazis.

Hundreds of Israelis attended the funeral of eighty two year old survivor Benjamin Schlesinger Thursday morning after family members relatives posted on Facebook that they were concerned that they would be unable to to gather the requisite ten men needed for a traditional Jewish burial, Yediot Aharonot reported.

Immediately prior to Yom HaShoah Congress held its first meeting of its new bipartisan taskforce for combating anti-Semitism, which met with diplomats from England, France and Germany to discuss the tide of anti-Jewish hate sweeping the continent.

“As a founding member of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, I am proud that one of our missions is to focus on the alarming trend of anti-Semitic attacks and threats against Jewish communities in Europe,” said Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles).

The Congressman said that he believed that the Germans, French and British were taking the issue of anti-Semitism seriously and that they were working to provide physical security for local Jewish communities.

In a statement on Thursday, Jewish congressman Eliot Engel issued called for remembrance of those who fought back against the Nazis such as those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

““Seven decades later, the scourge of anti-Semitism still exists throughout the world. This is evidenced by the recent attacks against Jewish establishments and religious sites in Paris and Copenhagen, as well as anti-Semitic attacks inside the United States.  Many of us have spoken out about this unacceptable situation for years, but we must reinforce our words with actions.  There is no room for such bigotry and violent intolerance in today’s society,” Engel said.

“Let this day of remembrance, Yom HaShoah, strengthen our resolve to fight anti-Semitism worldwide. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent, and we must continue to raise our voice against anti-Semitism, wherever it might arise.  Sadly, every year there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors among us.  We must take up their mantle, educate our youth, and tell their stories.  Otherwise, there is a far greater risk of history repeating itself.  Today, I remember the victims of the Holocaust, and I say ‘never again’.”

US Senator Bob Menendez likewise spoke out on Thursday, stating that “as the ugliness of anti-Semitism re-emerges in Europe and beyond, we as a global community must speak out and stand up against such cruelty and bigotry. That is our charge that we must fulfill to help heal our world and make this home we live in a better, more just place.

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