In first, Turkey to mark international Holocaust memorial day

Move comes months after Erdogan said Israel was worse than Hitler; event in New York to be led by Palestinian

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Maher Nasser, acting head of the UN Department of Public Information, at the 2012 UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony. (Photo credit: Mark Garten/UN)
Maher Nasser, acting head of the UN Department of Public Information, at the 2012 UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony. (Photo credit: Mark Garten/UN)

Turkey will hold its first ever ceremony for the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on January 27, according to a Thursday report.

To mark the day, representatives from the UN, the university and the Jewish Turkish community will speak and hold a candle-lighting ceremony, and the university will also host a photography exhibition titled “Holocaust Icons.”

According to the Jewish-Turkish weekly Salom newspaper, Cemil Çiçek, the speaker of the Turkish parliament, will attend the service at Bilkent University in Ankara.

In 2011, Turkey held its first state ceremony to commemorate the Holocaust at an Istanbul synagogue.

Ankara has rebuffed claims of anti-Semitism, even as anti-Israel rhetoric from official channels has reached a fever pitch in past years amid a nadir in ties.

In July, Erdogan was rapped for saying “[Israelis] have no conscience, no honor, no pride. Those who condemn Hitler day and night have surpassed Hitler in barbarism.”

At UN headquarters in the New York, an official Holocaust remembrance ceremony next week will be led by Palestinian Maher Nasser, the acting head of the UN department of public information.

Nasser will speak before the screening of the documentary “Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald.”

The screening will take place on January 28, a day after the international day of commemoration as part of the UN’s week-long series of events relating to this year’s theme of “Liberty, Life and the Legacy of the Holocaust Survivors.”

Nasser was born in the West Bank and received his degree from Birzeit University near Ramallah. He has served in a variety of positions in his more than 25 years at the UN, including several posts in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

At the official UN Holocaust Memorial Ceremony on January 27, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will appear with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev, Holocaust survivors and others.

At the ceremony, Rivlin will speak about growing international anti-Semitism and jihadi terror attacks against Jewish targets, according to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth.

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