Israelis across the country paused for two minutes Thursday morning in memory of the six million Jews who perished in Europe under Nazi rule as an air raid siren pierced the clear blue sky in an annual marking of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The stark siren was to be followed by ceremonies at schools, memorials and elsewhere in honor of those who lost their lives as well as Shoah survivors.
The central event was set to take place immediately after the siren at the Yad Vashem memorial and museum in Jerusalem, where dignitaries will lay wreaths next to a monument commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943.
Among those taking part are President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF Chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot, and President of the Supreme Court Miriam Naor.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is the struggle to maintain the human spirit during the Holocaust, Yad Vashem said ahead of Remembrance Day.
At 11 a.m. the Knesset was scheduled to mark the day with a ceremony titled “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” in which lawmakers recite names of victims of the Nazis.
The ceremony’s name comes from a famous poem by the Israeli poet Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky (commonly referred to by her first name alone). The musical version, which is often played at memorial ceremonies, repeats, “Unto every person there is a name given by…” and details where that name comes from: “their mother and father,” “their sins,” “their loves,” “their death.”
Seventy-six years after the liberation of the Nazi camps, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day continues to be marked with solemnity in Israel, with restaurants, stores and entertainment centers closed and Holocaust themed-movies and documentaries broadcast on TV and radio.
Most schools and many pre-schools hold official assemblies where students honor the dead and hear stories from survivors.
The day’s events will officially end with evening ceremonies at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters) and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, named after those who resisted the Nazis in Warsaw and the leader of the uprising, Mordechai Anielewicz.
In the afternoon, thousands of people were expected to take part in the annual March of the Living event at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland.
At 2:30 p.m. Israel time, some 10,000 people were expected to take part in the March of the Living event will start in Poland, walking along the three kilometers (1.8 miles) of railway tracks between the sites of the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked will lead the march along with a delegation of five MKs amid unprecedented security due to recent Islamic State attacks in Europe.
On Wednesday evening the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies began at Yad Vashem during which six survivors each lit a beacon — one for every million Jews slain. Sara Kain, Robert Tamashof, Jehosua Hesel Fried, Joseph Labi, Chaim Grosbein and Lonia Rozenhoc were chosen to light the symbolic torches this year.
During the ceremony, Rivlin asked the nearly 200,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel for forgiveness, noting that the state had failed to care for them properly with many of them living in poverty.
Speaking after Rivlin, Netanyahu spoke out against ill winds against the Jewish people and Jewish state blowing in Europe and the Muslim world.
“Slander comes before destruction. Today millions in the Muslim world read and hear threatening lies about the Jewish people. They say Jews are the descendants of monkeys and pigs, they say Jews drink the blood of their enemies,” Netanyahu said during the ceremony.
Hitler and his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, he said, would not have been surprised by anti-Jewish comments on social media.