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“Until the Very Last Jew”: Holocaust Remembrance Day

April 8, 2021

by: Kate Norman

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Jerusalem came to a halt as the siren sounded at 10 a.m.

Thursday, 8 April 2021 | Last night ushered in a somber event in Israel: Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a solemn day in which the Jewish state remembers the 6 million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust.

Israel’s national flag bearing the Star of David—the modern-day symbol of strength and pride that replaced the degrading yellow stars the Jewish people were forced to wear under the Nazi regime—is flying at half-mast today to commemorate the dark anniversary.

Each year on Yom HaShoah, Israel gives as many survivors as possible a platform to share their story to ensure the world remembers what happened. Because if the world remembers the atrocities of that dark event, there is a smaller chance of history repeating itself.

Throughout the day in Israel, ceremonies are held and the awful stories retold and remembered. The main ceremony takes place at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust museum, attended by dignitaries and political and military leaders. This year’s theme is “Until the Very Last Jew.”

“My dear Holocaust survivors, Israeli citizens, the burden of memory that we carry in our hearts is a sacred duty,” President Reuven Rivlin said at last night’s ceremony. “Whether we want it or not, the memory of the Holocaust shapes our identity as a people.”

“Our historical memory requires us to continue learning and teaching about the Holocaust,” the president added.

Holocaust survivor Roza Bloch also stood before the audience at Yad Vashem and spoke on behalf of all the survivors. After losing almost her whole family during the Holocaust, Bloch said she returned to her hometown of Kovno, Lithuania, to find the city “almost empty of Jews.” Kovno had been emptied of Hebrew schools, synagogues, the sounds of Hebrew and Yiddish and the smell of Sabbath meals, she described. “An entire world had been obliterated.”

“Who would have believed then, in a period when we were parted from our children and our elders, that we would have an independent, strong state, in which Jews can talk and study in Hebrew with pride,” Bloch continued, “in which we can educate generations of babies and children in a Jewish state, naturally and without fear.”

She ended with a call to action: “As a Holocaust survivor, I call upon the entire nation not to forget! To remember the Holocaust, the heroism of the Jewish people during this dark time, and the memory of our murdered brethren.

“We emerged from the abyss, we regained our strength, and we established a wonderful country, which we must never take for granted.”

But with more than 75 years having passed since the end of World War II and the Holocaust, Israel and the Jewish people are facing a problem: each year leaves fewer Holocaust survivors to tell their stories and the truth about what happened.

Thus, the Jewish people are faced with the problem of how to ensure future generations remember the Holocaust even after the last survivors are gone.

“Together, we pledged to remember the Holocaust and to fight anti-Semitism, racism, hatred and delegitimization—deadly enemies, home and abroad, that can bring down nations, undermine liberty and the human spirit,” Rivlin vowed.

Perhaps the most somber part of the day occurs at 10 a.m. when a siren wails for two minutes, and everything comes to a stop. A solemn spell falls over the land, as the bustling street comes to a complete pause when people stop and hang their heads in remembrance of the dead. Busy traffic grinds to a halt as cars pull off the road and the drivers exit the vehicles and stand in reverence.

Entertainment venues are closed for the duration of the day, and everywhere stories from the Holocaust are broadcast, remembering, remembering, remembering. It’s important to the Jewish people, because in remembering, they are able to keep their vow: “Never again.”

Posted on April 8, 2021

Source: (Bridges for Peace, April 8, 2021)

Photo Credit: Jenna Solomon/bridgesforpeace.com

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