Not only has the coronavirus wreaked havoc on global society, it has been particularly challenging for Holocaust remembrance. Over the past year, the few and dear Holocaust survivors still among us who can bear witness to the atrocities they suffered under Nazi rule have been unable to meet and impart their stories face to face with the next generation.
Yet despite all the despair, Israel is managing to emerge slowly from the isolation and now, as we celebrate the Festival of Freedom, is once again poised to commemorate the Shoah in the public sphere.
Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, observed the week after Passover, and this year starting Wednesday evening April 7 and continuing through Thursday, April 8, provides an opportunity for Jews in Israel and around the world to pause and connect with the memory of the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered by the German Nazis and their collaborators during the Shoah. As the world prepares to mark this solemn occasion, Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is offering the public a range of opportunities to connect and learn more about the history and stories of the Holocaust.
State Opening Ceremony Live from Yad Vashem
On Wednesday evening, audiences worldwide will watch the Holocaust Remembrance Day State Opening Ceremony taking place at Yad Vashem. The event will be broadcast live via Yad Vashem’s website complete with simultaneous translation into English, French, German, Russian, Spanish – and for the first time, also in Arabic. While the audience this year will be limited in order to adhere to Health Ministry regulations, the ceremony will be attended by Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yad Vashem Council Chairman Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Acting Yad Vashem Chairman Ronen Plot, notable Israeli dignitaries and Holocaust survivors. As in previous years, the emotional stories of six torchlighters will be featured during the ceremony.
‘Generations Light the Way’
Moments before the start of this traditional ceremony, the public will be invited to take part in the “Generations Light the Way” project by lighting six memorial candles in memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. Families are encouraged to gather for this act, and recite the traditional mourner’s prayer “El Maleh Rahamim” and/or the poem “Nizkor – Let us Remember” by Holocaust survivor Abba Kovner. “Generations Light the Way” will thus provide a meaningful family-oriented remembrance opportunity, imparting the memory of the Holocaust to the next generation.
In addition to these important events, Yad Vashem is offering a special mini-site featuring educational material and exhibitions geared toward enriching the public’s knowledge about the Holocaust and its continued relevance today. This year, Yad Vashem has uploaded a new online exhibition related to the 2021 Holocaust Remembrance Day central theme, “Until the Very Last Jew: Eighty Years Since the Onset of Mass Annihilation.”
Using personal stories, photographs and documents housed in the Yad Vashem collections and archives, “The Onset of Murder: The Fate of Jewish Families in 1941” reveals the fate of the Jews of Eastern Europe, where the mass killings began 80 years ago, through heart-wrenching testimonies.
“Today, we find ourselves at a crossroads,” remarks acting Yad Vashem chairman Ronen Plot. “As the last generation to be personally acquainted with Holocaust survivors, we have a great responsibility to ensure that what we have witnessed, what we have heard and what we have learned is passed on to future generations.”
Plot continues, “The meaningful multi-generational activities and online materials offered by Yad Vashem will help ensure that the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust will always be remembered, and that the meanings of that darkest period in human history will be employed to secure a brighter future for our children.”