Rivlin to host 40 world leaders to mark 75 years since Auschwitz liberation

Rivlin to host 40 world leaders to mark 75 years since Auschwitz liberation

Gathering at President’s Residence slated for January 22, a day before heads of dozens of nations gather at Yad Vashem for fifth annual World Holocaust Forum

President Reuven Rivlin attends a conference in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin attends a conference in Tel Aviv on December 2, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Some 40 heads of state are slated to take part in a gathering at President Reuven Rivlin’s official residence in Jerusalem next week, his office said Tuesday.

The leaders will be in Israel for the 5th World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem, which begins on Thursday, January 23. At least 47 world leaders, including 26 presidents, four kings (from Spain, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg) and four prime ministers will be in town for the event, officials have said.

A day before, on Wednesday, leaders will gather at Rivlin’s residence for an official dinner and discussion. Spain’s King Felipe VI will deliver an address on behalf of the world leaders.

This year’s forum marks 75 years since the liberation of the Auscwitz-Birkenau death camp in 1945.

It will feature an address by noted Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer and a performance of the song “The Last Survivor” by Israeli singers David D’Or, Miri Mesika and Amir Benayoun.

Visitors seen at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on January 24, 2018 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry has called the event the third-largest gathering of international leaders in Israel’s history, after the funerals of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

The proceedings — both Wednesday’s gathering at Rivlin’s residence and the larger Yad Vashem event on Thursday — will be broadcast live.

The guest list includes US Vice President Mike Pence, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zolenskyy, Britain’s Prince Charles, and many more leaders from Romania, Italy, Austria, Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Finland, Bosnia, Iceland, Armenia, Australia, Canada and other nations.

Many of the leaders are expected to stay at the King David Hotel in downtown Jerusalem, and police have already warned residents that their travels and events around the capital are likely to snarl traffic over five days, from January 20 to January 24.

One leader pointedly missing from the event will be Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who announced last week he would not attend because organizers had not included him as a speaker at the forum.

Polish President Andrzej Duda during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2019, at the United Nations in New York City. (Don Emmert/AFP)

Duda has criticized the fact that representatives of the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany would all speak at the memorial while his request to address the forum had been denied.

Yad Vashem said the speakers will represent the winners of World War II and the country that perpetrated the Holocaust — Germany.

The Polish announcement comes amid a dispute between Warsaw and Moscow over allegations of collaboration with the Nazis and responsibility for the outbreak of World War II.

In December, Putin accused Poland of having been in cahoots with Adolf Hitler during the war. He also cast Poland as an anti-Semitic country that welcomed the Nazi dictator’s plans to destroy Europe’s Jews.

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