Some 40 World Leaders Expected in Israel for Holocaust Memorial Day

January 15, 2020

by: Ilse Strauss

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Yad Vashem, where the Fifth World Holocaust Forum will be held

Wednesday, 15 January 2020 | Nearly 50 presidents, prime ministers, kings, crown princes and top officials from Austria to Australia, the US to Ukraine and multiple countries in between will flock to Israel’s capital at the invitation of President Reuven Rivlin next week for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum hosted at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum. The forum—entitled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism”—is organized by the State of Israel, Yad Vashem and the World Holocaust Foundation. It takes place on January 23 and commemorates the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz–Birkenau death camp in 1945 and International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

Hailed by Rivlin as “one of a kind,” the event is expected to be the largest-ever gathering focused on fighting the scourge of anti-Semitism. Forty-seven world leaders, including 26 presidents, 4 prime ministers and 4 kings have confirmed their attendance, making it the third largest get-together of international leaders in the history of Israel, eclipsed only by the funerals of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, the Times of Israel reports.

The guest list reads like the who’s who of global politics. Prominent dignitaries include US Vice President Mike Pence, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Charles from Britain, German President Frank Walter Steinmeier, the presidents of the European Parliament, Council and Commission, a representative of the Holy See and leaders from Australia, Canada and nearly every European nation.

The event will kick off on Wednesday, January 22 at Rivlin’s residence with an official address by Spain’s King Felipe VI representing the world leaders, followed by a formal dinner and a discussion.

“The event takes place against the background of a rise in hateful and violent expressions of anti-Semitism, especially in Europe,” a statement from Rivlin’s residence explained. “Given this alarming situation, efforts to educate about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia and to foster Holocaust commemoration and research have made this event more crucial and relevant than ever.”

Speaking at a press conference last November, Rivlin said: “We will come together to think about how to pass on Holocaust remembrance to generations who will live in a world without survivors, and what steps we must take to ensure the safety and security of Jews all around the world.”

On Thursday, January 23, the international guests will convene at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem for the formal “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism” event. The program includes short video clips, musical performances by celebrated Israeli artists and an international orchestra as well as addresses by renowned Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rivlin, Putin, Macron, Prince Charles and Steinmeier. Holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau and President of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation Dr. Moshe Kantor will also speak. The event will conclude with a memorial ceremony.

Conspicuously absent from the guest list is Polish President Andrzej Duda. Duda took great offense because Israeli organizers did not include him as a speaker at the forum alongside representatives from the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany. Yad Vashem’s explanation that speakers represent the victors of World War II and Germany—the perpetrator of the Holocaust—fell on deaf ears. Snubbed as a speaker, Duda announced that he would snub the event altogether.

Next week’s event takes place against the backdrop of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe and the US.

“Jewish life is once again under threat in Europe. It is under threat from the day-to-day harassment and attacks, on the streets, in schools, at universities, online, and even in their own homes. It has become so bad that the overwhelming majority of Jews in Europe no longer feel safe,” said Dr. Kantor. “Antisemitism is a hatred that knows no boundaries, and has been adopted by multiple ideologies. Jews are relentlessly attacked by the Left, the Right, and the mainstream. This is another pivotal point in history where the leaders of the world have to stand up and act. Words are not enough…”

Posted on January 15, 2020

Source: (Bridges for Peace, 15 January 2020)

Photo Credit: deror avi/

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