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A somber Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

Oct. 7 was not a Shoah because we have the Israel Defense Forces, says Netanyahu.

People stand still in Tel Aviv as a two-minute siren is sounded across Israel to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 6, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
People stand still in Tel Aviv as a two-minute siren is sounded across Israel to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, May 6, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

Israelis marked Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) on Monday, the first since the attack of Oct. 7, the largest single-day massacre of Jews since the Shoah.

The ceremonies began Sunday night and continued on Monday morning with the traditional nationwide siren blast, starting at 10 a.m. and lasting for two minutes. Israelis customarily stand still, including cars stopping on the road, to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews slain by the Nazis and their helpers.

The siren was activated by Holocaust survivor Malkah Herman, 92, and her grandson Maor, an officer in the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command, the military announced.

“During this period, when we are witnessing many threats to the State of Israel and the Jewish people, I was given the privilege to take part in commemorating the memory and heroism of our brothers and sisters who were murdered in the Holocaust,” Herman said in a statement.

“Being here alongside my grandson brings me huge excitement and reminds me of the road I went through to get here and gives me pride in the family I founded—thanks to, and despite everything,” she added.

The various government agencies and the Knesset held ceremonies on Monday, attended by the president, prime minister and members of the Knesset.

At the Knesset ceremony, titled “Everyone Has a Name,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog listed the names of the family members of two hostages currently held in Gaza who were killed in the Holocaust. The hostages—Alex Danzig and Mattan Angrest—come from families of those killed and those who survived and made their lives in Israel.

“This year, piece by piece, we were broken, and our eyes saw sights we never thought we would see again, as a free nation in its own country,” Herzog said. “The wounds of Oct. 7 are still open in our hearts, we are grieving and grieving, and we will not be able to remain silent as long as our brothers and sisters are kidnapped by Hamas murderers.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also addressed the ceremony, saying the difference between the Nazi horrors and the attack of Oct. 7 “is that we have heroic soldiers, hundreds of whom fell with endless bravery and others were wounded, and we embrace them and the families of the fallen and the kidnapped in our hearts.

“It was not a Holocaust because we have this protective force, and the difference is really expressed in the fact that we had nothing like that in the Holocaust. The scale of the carnage in the Holocaust is unimaginable, it is equivalent to 5,000 times Oct. 7,” he said.

Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein said at the Knesset ceremony, “Six million of our people were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Each of them is a complete world, each of them is a link in the chain of generations of the Jewish people.

“But there are those who survived the inferno and in each survivor—six million souls lived inside him. In each survivor we lived together, side by side, the pain of six million victims alongside the hopes of a thousand-year-old witness,” he added.

At the ceremony, Knesset member Almog Cohen lit a memorial candle with his grandfather, Ben Zion Hadad, who was a survivor of the Nazi death camps.

Also on Monday, Michal Woldiger, a Knesset member from the Religious Zionism Party, tweeted that her father-in-law, Nachman, a Holocaust survivor, died at the age of 88.

The chairman of her party, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, sent her condolences on X.

Smotrich also held an event at the Finance Ministry, where Miriam Man Shathai, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, shared her parents’ story about survival and finding a new life in the Land of Israel.

Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day is marked on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan and commemorates the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, one of the notable cases of Jewish defiance in the face of Nazi murder during the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, which is observed in Israel but not as widely, marks the date that Auschwitz was liberated in 1945.

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