"Jews survived all the defeats, expulsions, persecutions and pogroms, the centuries in which they were regarded as a pariah people, even the Holocaust itself, because they never gave up the faith that one day they would be free to live as Jews without fear." Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah ("Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), is observed as Israel's national memorial day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. In Israel, the first official commemorations took place in 1951, and the observance of the day was anchored in a law passed by the Knesset in 1959.
Yom HaShoah will commence in Israel at sundown on Wednesday 11 April 2018 in a state ceremony held in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Authority, in Jerusalem. During the ceremony the national flag will fly at half mast, the President and the Prime Minister will both deliver speeches, Holocaust survivors will light six torches symbolizing the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust and the Chief Rabbis will recite prayers. On Thursday 12 April 2018 at 10:00, an air raid siren will sound throughout the country and we will all observe two minutes [ of solemn reflection. Almost everyone stops what they are doing, including motorists who stop their cars in the middle of the road, standing beside their vehicles in silence as the siren is sounded. Ceremonies and services will be held at schools, and by other public and community organizations, in many of the ceremonies Holocaust survivors and Partisans (the Jewish Resistance) will share their memories of the darkest chapter in the history of mankind.
The theme of Yom HaShoah this year is 70 Years of Remembering and Building: Holocaust Survivors and the State of Israel. After WWII, most Holocaust survivors chose to concentrate on building their lives, with many of them doing so in Eretz Israel and rarely has a group of newly arrived immigrants integrated so successfully into their new society, and become such active partners in shaping its face and character. They became an inseparable part of Israeli society, with their legacy evident in numerous fields: land reclamation and settlement, industry, science, economics, law, academia and culture.
From the day they reached the Land of Israel, the survivors took on two simultaneous missions: shaping and preserving the memory of the Shoah on the one hand, and constructive social action on the other. They became the first researchers in the field, the founders of its museums and commemorative institutions, and the authors of communal memorial books for future generations. Some carried the physical and mental scars, but weren't always able to open up to their nearest and dearest.
WIZO must also pay tribute to Holocaust victims and survivors within its ranks, some who carried out great acts of chesed and courage.
We were all shocked to hear that Poland’s Senate passed a bill that outlaws blaming Poland for any crimes committed during the Holocaust and calls for up to three years in prison or a fine for accusing the Polish state or people of involvement or responsibility for the Nazi occupation during World War II.. Lawmakers in Israel have pointed to historical records citing complicity by some Poles in the activities of the Nazi regime. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it an “attempt to rewrite history.”
Moreover, there are still countries that would like to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people. There is still Anti-Semitism and then there is BDS – sometimes initiated by Jews and that I find unacceptable, after all we have been through.
Only last month, Mireille Knoll, who escaped a mass roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II by fleeing with her mother to Portugal when she was 10, was stabbed repeatedly in her apartment and her body was then set alight in a crime being treated by French investigators as anti-Semitic. It was also confirmed, that the April 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old orthodox Jewish woman, who was beaten and thrown out of her window in the same Paris administrative district, was motivated by antisemitism.
We have all taken an oath of "Never Again" to be silent about the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism. We must be masters of our own destiny – never again to seek help and to be turned away. We must educate our younger generations and nations of the world. We must demand that world leaders take more action to prevent hate crimes against the Jewish people. We owe it to the memory of the six million who perished, we owe it to the survivors who due to their advanced age – their number is dwindling; and we owe it to ourselves and to our descendants because in the words of Igal Alon "People that do not know their past, their present is dull and their future is hidden in the mist."
President, World WIZO
Photo credits: Wikipedia