Israelis stood this morning in commemoration of the Holocaust as sirens sounded throughout the country for two minutes, a time to remember the 6 million who perished during the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II.
Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, began last evening at sundown. Considered an official day of mourning, the day is marked with solemnity. Restaurants, stores and entertainment venues closed early on Wednesday while Israeli television ceased to broadcast except to air Holocaust documentaries and the official state ceremony which took place at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
When the sirens began this morning at 10 a.m. life stood still across the Jewish state. People paused to stand in silence including motorists who stopped and stepped out of their vehicles, standing with heads bowed.
Israelis take this somber day seriously. The motto “never forget” drives events held across the country even in schools for children as young as pre-school age. Facts about the Holocaust, perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, are fast fading from basic public knowledge abroad. According to a survey, 31 percent of Americans and 41 percent of millennials, believe that only 2 million Jews or fewer were killed in the Holocaust. A shocking 66 percent of millennials do not know what Auschwitz was and a mere 39 percent of Americans realize that Hitler was a democratically elected politician, the survey by Claims Conference showed.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held on Jan. 27, the date marking the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1945. Israel opted to mark the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising on the Jewish calendar date of Nisan 27, which usually falls in April or May.
Speaking at the official ceremony on Wednesday night, Israel’s Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the recent chemical attack in Syria and panned the Iranian nuclear deal.
“One great lesson that has been with us since the Holocaust: Murderous evil that is not stood up against spreads rapidly and gradually, and threatens all of humanity,” he said. “The leaders of the free world wanted to prevent war and led to the conquest of all of Europe. Their unwillingness to pay the price to curb aggression early on, led to humanity paying the price.”
In a concurrent event on Thursday, some 12,000 participants joined the March of the Living in Poland walking the distance between two concentration camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau – 3.2 kilometers – to mark the solemn occasion.