Tue, April 21, 2009
World > Middle East

Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

2009-04-21 11:42:46 GMT2009-04-21 19:42:46 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

A woman lays a flower in the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in JerusalemTuesday, April 21, 2009. (AP Photo/ Dan Balilty)

People attend a ceremony marking the Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, on April 20, 2009. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Avner Shalev, second from left, chairman of Yad Vashem, look on during a ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem as a two-minute siren marking Holocaust Remembrance Day is sounded across Israel, Tuesday, April 21, 2009. (AP Photo/Ammar Awad, Pool)

Twin sisters Lia Huber and Iudit Barnea, who survived the Holocaust, light a torch during the opening ceremony marking the Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Monday, April 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

JERUSALEM, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Enkindling torches, sounding sirens, laying wreaths, a somber Israel is conducting various activities to commemorate the terrible history of the Holocaust.

Upon a two-minute wail of sirens across the country on Tuesday morning, the Jewish state came to a standstill, with drivers descending their vehicles and pedestrians halting their steps to remember the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

Immediately after the alarm, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, together with representatives of Holocaust survivors, public figures, school children and delegations from across the nation, laid wreaths at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem.

The two leaders then joined ministers, lawmakers and Holocaust survivors in a traditional "Upon Every Person There Is a Name" occasion at the parliament, where a number of participants took the podium one by one and read out the names of Holocaust victims before a mournful audience, many with tears in their eyes.

A similar ceremony also took place in parallel in the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, where attendants recited the names of children murdered in the Holocaust, as the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day this year is themed "Children in the Holocaust."

"Mommy, may I cry now?" asked a little girl upon liberation, as quoted in a statement from the Holocaust Remembrance Authority, which said that 1.5 million Jewish children were prevented from growing up and fulfilling their basic rights during the dark years.

"We always see before us the famous picture of the frightened Jewish child raising his hands in front of the barrels of German rifles. But this child was only one out of a million and a half children, a million and a half pairs of frightened eyes," said premier Netanyahu on Monday night at a ceremony at Yad Vashem that marked the beginning of a day of memorial activities.

"Each one of them was an entire world of hopes and dreams, a mother's love and a father's concern, a world transformed instantly into one of terror, suffering and death," the prime minister told the hundreds of attendants.

"We will not allow Holocaust deniers to carry out another Jewish Holocaust. This is the supreme commitment of the State of Israel, and it is my supreme commitment as Prime Minister of Israel," vowed Netanyahu with a firm tone.

Following his speech, seven Holocaust survivors, including a pair of identical twin sisters, to the accompaniment of salutes from a military honor guard squad, lit up six torches to mourn for the six million Holocaust victims.

"Existence and heritage are inextricably linked... We must not let the memory of the Holocaust diminish, and we must ensure that the memory-bearers do not lessen in numbers," said President Peresin an address delivered earlier in the opening ceremony.

From Monday night to Tuesday night, restaurants, bars and places of entertainment closes across the country, while local entertainment and sports TV channels suspend their broadcasts, and other TV channels dedicate most of their time to Holocaust-related programs.

On Tuesday, a number of other activities are to be held across the Jewish state, including rallies, memorial services and the screening of a Holocaust-related documentary movie.

In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution introduced by Israel to designate Jan. 27, the day when the Auschwitz camp was liberated in 1945, as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Israel commemorates the day according to the Jewish calendar.

"The Holocaust will always be in our hearts, and we realize that there is much work ahead of us: to build a state that is worthy of its fathers' sacrifice and is an answer to its sons' prayers," said Peres.

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