On Monday, many turned out for the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem memorial with some survivors participating in the “Every Person Has a Name” ceremony that tries to preserve the memories of the many who died during the holocaust by sharing the personalized stories of individuals, families and communities destroyed during World War II. As pictured above six survivors lit six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremonies in Jerusalem on Sunday April 7 2013. The annual memorial begun with a ceremony to mark the 70 years since the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Among the crows was a retired American Air Force colonel from San Fransisco who cam to honor his family he never new as Bertrand Huchberger was too young to remember his parents reports the Associated Press. Along with him, his older sister was also sent to the french countryside to escape the Nazis during World War II and for three years was hidden before being sent to an orphanage eventually being adopted by American Jews at 11 and taken to New York. Now, 75, Huchberger took part in the ceremony by reading the names of his relatives who were all killed. As he explains, “It is still settling in. It was just overwhelming. This place is `terra sancta’ (holy ground) for people who have been associated with the Holocaust. Now I feel that I find myself and my heritage, and it’s just uplifting … it helps build a spiritual bridge to my parents.” At the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials read names of their relatives killed in the Holocaust.
The country came to a standstill at 10 a.m. Monday to honor the victims with a siren that wails for two minutes across the country as part of the annual tradition with many more poignant moment to follow. The momentary pause allowed everyone to reflect on the past as pedestrians stood still, buses stopped on streets and cars pulled over as the drivers stood on the roads with their heads bowed. Homes and businesses took time to pause and pay homage to the victims of the brutal Nazi genocide that claimed a third of the worlds Jews. A wreath laying ceremony followed at Yad Vashem with Israeli leaders, Holocaust survivors and visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance while at schools, community centers, and army bases ceremonies took place to commemorate the day with prayers and musical performances. The day marks one of the most solemn days on the calendar in Israel as restaurants, cafes and entertainment shuts down and radio as well as TV programs focus on Holocaust documentaries, interviews with survivors and somber music.
The Israeli flag flew at half-staff to commemorate the day as Peres, 89, in parliament recite the names of his family members and 2060 members of their community who were killed in August 1942 in Vishneva, Poland now Belarus. The Nazis and their local collaborators rounded up the Jews and herded them into wooden synagogue where his grandfather lead the community into the building where the Nazis shot at the structure and set it on fire burning the people to death. This year marks the 70 year anniversary since the Warsaw ghetto uprising symbolizes the Jewish resistance against the Nazis that helped to inspire other acts of uprising and underground resistance. At the opening ceremonies Sunday night at Yad Vashem, Israeli leaders linked the Jewish revolt of 1943 to the warrior mentality that enabled the establishment of Israel five years later reports the Associated Press. They also tied the Nazi genocide to Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear arms urging the world to stop them as Iranian leaders have denied the scope of the Holocaust while making references to the destruction of Israel. Netanyahu explained, “The murderous hatred against the Jews that has accompanied the history of our people has not disappeared, it has just been replaced with a murderous hatred of the Jewish state. What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and our ability to defend ourselves.” Just three years after the war Israel was created as hundreds of thousands of survivors came to the country, while today fewer than 200,000 elderly survivors remain and the Jewish genocide of World War II still plays a major role in the Israeli psyche.