President Shimon Peres addressed the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem on Sunday night, saying that the world must ask itself how a regime such as that in Iran can deny the Holocaust and threaten a new Holocaust so soon after six million people lost their lives.
"The threat of a Holocaust against one people is a threat of a Holocaust on all people," Peres stated.
"The Holocaust will not be lost in the depths of history," Peres told the crowd gathered at Yad Vashem, "it is right here with us, burning and tangible."
Peres stressed the point that the painful emotions and lost identity of millions of murdered Jews is a process that Jews everywhere are still coming to terms with today.
"When I hear the four words: 'Let my people go,' I sense again and again that the exit march from the house of slavery, a march that is continued by us, is not yet finished," Peres said drawing on a biblical reference, "and it is forbidden to be finished."
Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial activities began Sunday evening with a state ceremony at Yad Vashem's Warsaw Ghetto Square, where Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were delivering addresses. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird will also be in attendance.
The central theme of this year’s ceremony is defiance and rebellion during the Holocaust, Yad Vashem announced, marking 70 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev will light a memorial torch, followed by Holocaust survivors Otto Pressburger, Eliezer Eizenschmidt, Miriam Liptcher and Baruch Kopold who will light torches. Sima Hochman will light the first torch in place of her husband, Peretz, who passed away last week.
Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger will recite traditional Jewish prayers of mourning and remembrance and Cantor Azi Schwartz will sing a prayer for the souls of the martyrs.
The theme of heroism will be on further display at the Ghetto Fighters’ House in the Galilee on Sunday, with another six survivors lighting memorial torches at a ceremony that organizers believe will draw 10,000 attendees.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid will give the opening remarks, followed by retired Labor Party politician and Ghetto Fighters’ House chairman Ophir Paz- Pines.
The survivors chosen to light torches are Dr. Lucien Lazare, a former member of the French underground; Aviva Blum Waks, the daughter of Warsaw Ghetto fighter Avraham Blum; Semion Rozenfeld, a captured Red Army soldier who took part in an uprising in the Sobibor concentration camp; Yehuda “Poldek” Maymon, a member of the Polish resistance and a retired Israeli naval officer who was interned in Auschwitz; Julian Zanoda, an Algerian Jew who at age 10 took part in the underground revolt that facilitated the American invasion and prevented the destruction of Algerian Jewry; and Shimon Zuckerman, the son of Yitzhak “Antek” Zuckerman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and deputy to Mordechai Anielewicz.
The B’nai B’rith World Center and the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund will also mark Holocaust Remembrance Day with a joint ceremony in commemoration of those Jews whose resistance consisted of rescuing “fellow Jews during the years of torment in Europe” on Monday.
The ceremony will honor Otto Komoly, president of the Zionist Federation in Hungary, who saved thousands of Jewish children through the establishment of a network of 52 shelters under the protection of the Red Cross.
Komoly oversaw the rescue of 5,000 Jewish children and the aliya of some 15,000 Hungarian Jews by way of Romania during the war.
In addition to its formal ceremonies, Yad Vashem also plans to mark the day with a new online exhibit featuring testimonies about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising called “Voices From The Inferno,” which features video testimonies from ghetto survivors and former fighters.
As “there were also the few who managed to survive among the ruins of the ghetto until the liberation, this unique oral documentation enables us to shed new light on the fate of the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during the uprising, thereby enhancing our understanding of one of the central chapters in Holocaust history,” the website said.
Following the sounding of the memorial siren on Monday morning at 10 a.m., US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem together with Peres, Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials.
There will also be a recitation of the names of Holocaust victims at the Knesset under the auspices of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein at 11 a.m. and a ceremony for youth movements in the presence of Education Minister Shai Piron at 5:30 p.m., among other activities.
Yad Vashem announced that there will be “educational activities for groups, youth movement members and student councils” throughout the day at the museum’s International School for Holocaust Studies.
The museum will be closed to the public between noon on Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday morning.
Yad Vashem spokeswoman Estee Yaari called on the public to fill in pages of testimony on the Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names website “to commemorate the names of Jews murdered in the Holocaust,” and noted that volunteers are to be made available to assist survivors in filling out pages.
Yad Vashem chief archivist Dr. Haim Gertner told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday that he believed that he and his researchers would “come close” to compiling the names of all six million Holocaust victims within the next three years.