Ahead of Israeli Holocaust remembrance, Blinken speaks of duty to stop evil

US secretary of state in early message warns that wickedness ‘on a grand scale can and does happen,’ says ‘we honor the lost by remembering and by learning’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

On Feb. 26, 2021 Secretary Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)
On Feb. 26, 2021 Secretary Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a message Sunday ahead of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, speaking of the responsibility to prevent “evil on a grand scale.”

The annual day of commemoration, known in Israel as Yom Hashoah, honors the memory of six million Jews murdered during World War II. It begins this year on Wednesday evening and ends on Thursday evening.

“Each year, the US observes Days of Remembrance to reflect upon the Holocaust,” Blinken tweeted. “We remember that evil on a grand scale can and does happen, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to stop it. We honor the lost by remembering and by learning.#NeverAgain #YomHashoah”

It was not clear why Blinken sent the message three days before the official start of the day.

This year’s Yom Hashoah events will be held under the title “Until the Very Last Jew: Eighty Years Since the Onset of Mass Annihilation,” as laid down by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, and marks Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union which was followed by the extermination of some one million Jews living in captured areas.

The main remembrance ceremony will be held at Yad Vashem on Wednesday at 8 p.m., attended by President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As is the tradition each year, six torches will be lit by six Holocaust survivors.

On Thursday a siren will sound for two minutes at 10 a.m., which typically brings Israeli outdoor life to a standstill. Pedestrians stand in place, buses stop on busy streets and cars pull over on major highways, their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed.

People stand still in Jerusalem, as a two-minute siren is sounded to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 21, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

At 11 a.m. there will be an official ceremony at the Knesset during which lawmakers will read out the names of Holocaust victims.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is one of the most solemn dates on the Israeli calendar. Survivors typically attend remembrance ceremonies, share stories with teenagers and participate in memorial marches at former concentration camps in Europe.

Due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the March of the Living — an annual event in which Jewish people of all ages from around the world walk along the trains tracks between the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration and death camps which the Nazis set up in Poland — has been moved online, with a virtual event to be held instead. The event will be held at 3 p.m. Israel time with the participation of Rivlin, head of the Jewish Agency Isaac Herzog, and other dignitaries.

A closing ceremony for the day will be held at the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum in Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot.

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