Israel's parliament, the Knesset, held its annual "Every Person Has a Name" Holocaust memorial service on Tuesday morning, with President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, High Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut, Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana and many other ministers and Knesset members in attendance.
Ohana told the story of Victor Peretz, born to a Jewish family in Tunisia, who was a world lightweight boxing champion in the 1930s. Peretz was sent to Auschwitz by Nazi occupiers in 1942, where he became a member of the camp's boxing team, which provided entertainment for the Nazi guards. Peretz fought and won 133 matches, all while defending and saving dozens of other inmates. When warned he said, "It does not matter, man's purpose is to help the other." He was shot by a guard at the camp while scavenging for bread for his fellow inmates, Ohana related.
President Herzog read the names of his relatives killed in the Holocaust and shared their individual stories in brief.
"We do not remember numbers; we remember lives," Herzog said. "Human beings. Because the name of every Jew who went up in flames and yet eighty years later is read out loud in Jerusalem, in the heart of the legislature of our Jewish and democratic nation-state, is the greatest victory. I wish to recall the moving remarks by Holocaust survivor Shoshana Weiss last night at Yad Vashem, who called on all of us to come together and find unity, and safeguard our nation and our homeland, for we have no other country. Let’s listen to her," the president said.
Netanyahu spoke about his father-in-law, Shlomo Ben-Artzi, a bible scholar, educator and writer, and recipient of the Ka-Tzetnik Fund Award for Holocaust Literature. Ben-Artzi's family was murdered in the Holocaust, including his twin sister Yehduit, the prime minister said. For his entire life, Shlomo would burst into tears whenever he mentioned her name, Netanyahu recounted.
Other government and public officials to read out the names of family members who died in the Holocaust included Hayut, Likud ministers Yisrael Katz, Miri Regev and Dudi Amsalem, United Torah Judaism MK and deputy minister Uri Makleb, and MKs Ze'ev Elkin and Orit Farkash-Hacohen (National Unity), MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu), MKs Boaz Bismuth and Ariel Kallner (Likud) and MKs Moshe Arbel and Erez Malul (Shas).
Holocaust survivors light memorial candles
Also at the ceremony, six Holocaust survivors lit memorial torches, four of whom were related to current Knesset members: Sofi Sachs, mother of MK Yasmin Friedman-Sachs (Yesh Atid); Paulina Davidson, mother of MK Simon Davidson (Yesh Atid); second-generation survivor Haya Nir, mother-in-law of MK Sharon Nir (Yisrael Beytenu); and second-generation survivor Michaela Akunis, mother of minister Ofir Akunis (Likud).
The day began with ministers, Knesset members, Holocaust survivors and other public figures including Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion lighting memorial candles at the entrance to the parliament building. Ohana lit the first candle in honor of Isaac Dari (1912-1943), who was born in Oujda, Morocco, and died at the Majdanek concentration camp.