(Updated) May We Never Forget: Holocaust Remembrance Day 2014 – Yom Hashoah
Posted by Dr. Fay on April 27, 2014
Holocaust Remembrance Day, which began at sundown tonight, is the day each year when Israel remembers the 6 million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany. May we never forget!
Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day
The State of Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday evening with ceremonies and events throughout the country, honoring the memory of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day opening ceremony took place at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both attended and spoke, saying Israel and Jews still face existential threats, even in 2014.
An additional ceremony was held at the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies in Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak. and was attended by dignitaries including Justice Minister Tzippi Livni and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu at ceremony (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Holocaust Remembrance Day is dedicated to honoring the memory of the Holocaust inflicted on the Jewish people by the Nazis and their accomplices and to acts of heroism and defiance against the German forces. This year’s focus is “1944: From Extermination to Liberation” – the Jews’ situation exactly 70 years ago.
Speaking at the Holocaust Remembrance Day, President Shimon Peres said: “The victims are alive in our hearts. Each one of us carries in his heart the grief of our brothers who were exterminated, as (we remember also) the greatness of the establishment of Israel.”
Peres at ceremony (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Peres further said: “We mustn’t ignore any type of anti-Semitic phenomena, any desecration of a synagogue or smashing of a tombstone. We must also not overlook the rise of extreme right-wing parties with neo-Nazi leanings that are a danger for everyone and a warning for every nation.
“The state of Israel is the deterrent against the attempt to carry out another Holocaust. A strong Israel is our answer to the terror of anti-Semitism.”
Netanyahu: Today we are strong
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wondered whether the world had learned the lessons from the Holocaust.
“Why didn’t they see the truth? They didn’t want to deal with the consequences. They hoped to avoid a conflict at any price, and that’s how they laid the ground for the worst war in human history.
“They assumed the hateful rhetoric was meant for political purposes in domestic consumption. The price of the illusions, of the wishes, was heavy. By the time Western leaders decided to act, their nations had paid dearly.”
Netanyahu attempted to connect the memorial day to current events, and slammed Iran’s nuclear program: “Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Today, as in the past, there are those who rationalize Iranian actions. Today, as in the past, those who think this are deluding themselves. This time too, the truth will lead the way.
“Iran wants a deal in which the sanctions are lifted, but the nuclear capabilities remain. A deal that allows Iran to remain on the threshold of nuclear power will leave the entire world on the precipice.
“I call on world powers to stand firm on the demand Iran dismantle its nuclear program.Today we do not fear making our case to presidents and prime ministers. Unlike during the Holocaust, when we were defenseless, today we have the power to defend ourselves.”
Remembering the past
On Monday morning, a two-minute siren will be sounded at 10 am, and immediately after that, a wreath-laying ceremony will commence at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem. At 10:30 am the reading names of the Holocaust victims will begin. It will be followed by the main remembrance ceremony at Ohel Yizkor at 1 pm.
Tel Aviv will hold a remembrance ceremony at the Cameri Theater, titled “1944 – Jews t the Finish Line, From Extermination to Liberation”. The ceremony will be screened live via a wide screen at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
A ‘Singing and Remembering’ event will take place at 9 pm on Sunday at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem and at 08 am Monday, the ceremony “1944 – On the Brink of Liberation” will take place at Safra Square in the capital.
The main Remembrance Rally to mark the end of the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations will be held on Monday at 7:30 pm at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the presence of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, IDF senior commanders and Hungary’s ambassador to Israel.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked worldwide on Jan. 27, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Israel’s annual Holocaust memorial day coincides with the Hebrew date of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
6 survivors to represent 6 million
Six Holocaust survivors, representing the six million victims, will light torches in memory of people who did not survive at the hands of the Nazis, at the main ceremony at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
The holocaust survivors to light the torches are Asher Aud, Zvi Michaeli, Dita Kraus, Chayim Herzl, Hinda Tasman and Itzchak Biran.
The complete transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu can be found here. Here is an excerpt:
All the exhibition rooms here are filled with such heartbreaking stories. When we left Yad Vashem, I told the Canadian Prime Minister that the primary duty of the Prime Minister of Israel is to ensure that there will be no more memorial sites like this, that there will never be another Holocaust.
I have said many times in this place that we must identify an existential threat in time and take action in time. Tonight, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I ask myself: why, in the years preceding the Holocaust, did the overwhelming majority of world leaders and Jewish leaders fail to detect the danger in time? In retrospect, all the warning signs were there: the strengthening of the Nazi regime year after year; the horrific anti-Semitic propaganda which grew stronger with each passing month; and the murderous attacks on Jews which began as a trickle and transformed into a huge wave.
In retrospect, there is a direct line connecting the racial laws and the gas chambers.
Very few world leaders understood the enormity of the threat to humanity posed by Nazism. Churchill was one of them. Few among our leaders, primarily Jabotinsky, warned against the imminent destruction facing our nation, but they were widely criticized and their warnings were disregarded, and they were treated as merchants of doom and war mongers.
So I ask: How is it possible that so many people failed to understand the reality? The bitter and tragic truth is this: it is not that they did not see it. They did not want to see it. And why did they choose not to see the truth? Because they did not want to face the consequences of that truth.
During the 1930′s, when the Nazis were gaining momentum, the influence of the trauma of the First World War was still fresh. Twenty years earlier, the people of the West experienced a terrible trench war, a war which claimed the lives of 16 million people. Therefore, the leaders of the West operated on the basis of one axiom: avoid another confrontation at any cost, and thus they laid the foundation for the most terrible war in human history. This axiom of avoiding conflict at any cost, this axiom was adopted not only by the leaders. The people themselves, primarily the educated ones, shared it too.
In 1933, for example, the year Hitler rose to power, there was a meeting of the Oxford University student organization – an institute from which generations of British leaders had emerged. Following a heated debate, the students voted for a resolution stating that they “would under no circumstances fight for their King and Country”. This resolution passed by an overwhelming majority only ten days after Hitler entered the Chancellery of Germany.
And believe me: that message reverberated in Berlin.
This example illustrates the West’s feeble attitude vis-à-vis the rise of Nazism.
Month after month, year after year, more and more information was received in London, Paris and Washington regarding the capabilities and intentions of the Nazi regime. The picture was becoming clear to everybody. However, “they have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear.”
When you refuse to accept reality as it is, you can deny it. And this is precisely what the leaders of the West did. They dismissed the murderous Nazi rhetoric as internal German politics; they downplayed the seriousness of the danger of the military build-up of the Nazis, claiming that it was the result of the natural will of a proud nation, that it should be taken into consideration, that it should be accepted.
The reality was clear, but it was cloaked in a bubble of illusions. This bubble was burst by the stealth attack by the Nazis on Europe. And the price of the illusion and desire was very heavy because by the time the leaders of the West finally acted, their people paid a terrible price. World War II claimed the lives not of 16 million people, the unimaginable number of victims during World War I, but of 60 million, including one third of our people, who were butchered by the Nazi beast.
Citizens of Israel, my brothers and sisters,
Has the world learned from the mistakes of the past? Today, we are again facing clear facts and a tangible threat.
Iran is calling for our destruction. It is developing nuclear weapons. This is the reason it is building underground bunkers for the enrichment of uranium. This is the reason it is establishing a plutonium-producing heavy water facility. This is the reason it continues to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads to threaten the entire world.
Today, just like then, there are those who dismiss Iran’s extreme rhetoric as one that serves domestic purposes. Today, just like then, there are those who view Iran’s nuclear ambitions as the result of the natural will of a proud nation – a will that should be accepted.
And just like then, those who make such claims are deluding themselves. They are making an historic mistake.
We are currently in the midst of fateful talks between Iran and the world powers. This time too, the truth is evident to all: Iran is seeking an agreement that will lift the sanctions and leave it as a nuclear threshold state, in other words, the capability to manufacture nuclear weapons within several months at most.
Iran wants a deal that will eliminate the sanctions and leave their nuclear capabilities intact. Such a deal, which will enable Iran to be a nuclear threshold state, will bring the entire world to the threshold of an abyss.
I hope that the lessons of the past will be learned and that the desire to avoid confrontation at any cost will not lead to a deal that will exact a much heavier price in the future.
I call on the leaders of the world powers to insist on a full dismantling of Iran’s capability to manufacture nuclear weapons, and to persist until this goal is achieved.
In any event, the people of Israel are strong. When faced with an existential threat, the situation of our people today is entirely different than it was during the Holocaust.
Today, we have a sovereign Jewish state. As Prime Minister of Israel, I do not hesitate to speak the truth to the world, even when faced with so many blind eyes and deaf ears. It is not only my right, it is my duty. It is a duty I am mindful of at all times, but particularly on this day, in this place.
On the eve of the Holocaust, there were Jews who avoided crying out to the world’s nations out of fear that the fight against the Nazis would become a Jewish problem. Others believed that if they kept silent, the danger would pass. The kept silent and the disaster struck. Today, we are not afraid to speak the truth to world leaders, as is written in our Bible: “I will speak of your testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed…listen, for I will speak noble thoughts; the opening of my lips will reveal right things.”
Unlike our situation during the Holocaust, when we were like leaves on the wind, defenseless, now we have great power to defend ourselves, and it is ready for any mission. This power rests on the courage and ingenuity of the soldiers of the IDF and our security forces. It is this power that enabled us, against all odds, to build the State of Israel.
Look at the remarkable achievements we have made in our 66 years of independence. All of us together – scientists, writers, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, employees, artists, farmers – the entire people of Israel, each one in their own field – together we have built a glorious state. The spirit of the people of Israel is supreme, our accomplishments tremendous. Seven decades after the destruction of the Holocaust, the State of Israel is a global wonder.
On this day, on behalf of the Jewish people, I say to all those who sought to destroy us, to all those who still seek to destroy us: you have failed and you will fail.
The State of Israel is stronger than ever. It is a state that seeks peace with all its neighbors – a state with a will of iron to ensure the future of its people.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is also observing the 2014 Days of Remembrance from April 27 – May 4 . This video can be found on their website and is well worth watching all the way to the end.
Retrieved from United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The 2014 Days of Remembrance theme, Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses, marks the anniversaries of two seminal events in Holocaust history that raise questions about the responses of the United States to the widespread persecution and mass murder of the Jews of Europe. What can we learn today from American action and inaction in the face of the refugee crisis in the spring of 1939 and the deportation of Hungarian Jews five years later?
The following photos and links were provided by our friend Jack WV.
Six years ago, Israeli Air Force jets flew over the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp
The picture of IDF planes over the Birkenau gates says it all. This image summarizes the great change that has occurred in our nation’s history, from a helpless people at the mercy of our enemies to a people capable of defending itself
– Prime Benjamin Netanyahu
Retrieved from Professor Marcelo.
From the 60 Minutes website:
Sir Nicholas Winton didn’t intend to save children from the Nazis when he went to Prague on the eve of World War II, but he had a burning desire to help refugees who were crowded around the city. In the end, with the help of a little trickery, Winton pulled off one of biggest humanitarian acts of the war when he helped arrange the safe transport of 669 mostly Jewish kids from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to Britain. Bob Simon speaks to Winton, now 104, and to some of the people he saved, on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, April 27 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Jack WV informs us that Sir Nicholas Winton will turn 105 on May 19th!
Here are excerpts from the transcript of the 60 Minutes documentary about Sir Nicholas Winton’s efforts. The complete transcript can be found here.
In London, Nicholas Winton had been following events and knew that refugees fleeing the Nazis were in dire straits. He went to Czechoslovakia to see if there was anything he could do to help. What’s strange is that for almost 50 years, he hardly told anyone about what he had accomplished and for 50 years, the children knew nothing about who had saved them or how.
We begin on October 1st, 1938. Nazi troops marched into the Sudetenland, the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia. Prague, the Czech capital was flooded with desperate people, trying to escape. A fortunate few were able to send their children abroad. These parents, mostly Czech Jews, sensed war was coming and wanted to get their children out. By chance, a cameraman filmed a man holding a boy, a 29-year-old Londoner. His name: Nicholas Winton.
Winton set up a small organization with one aim: to get as many kids out, as fast as possible.
David Silberklang: People started coming to him in increasing numbers. He didn’t have time in the day to meet them all. He’d work till 2:00 in the morning; get up early in the morning to meet the next people as more and more were coming saying, “Take my child. Take my child.”
By the time he returned to London, he had a list of hundreds of children and set out to convince British authorities to take him seriously. He did it by taking stationary from an established refugee organization, adding “Children’s Section,” and making himself chairman.
Nicholas Winton: So that eventually they had to adopt me.
Bob Simon: So, in fact, you managed to do what you did through a little deception, a little smoke and mirrors?
Nicholas Winton: Yes, to a certain extent, yes.
Bob Simon: It required quite a bit of ingenuity.
Nicholas Winton: No, it just required a printing press to get the notepaper printed.
The “Children’s Section” operated from a tiny office in central London. Winton’s mother was in charge. The staff were all volunteers. During the day, Winton worked as a stockbroker. Evenings, he wrestled with the British bureaucracy.
Bob Simon: Did you approach any other countries to take some of the children?
Nicholas Winton: The Americans. But the Americans wouldn’t take any, which was a pity. We could’ve got a lot more out.
Winton had written President Roosevelt, asking the U.S. to take in more children. A minor official at the U.S. Embassy in London wrote back — the U.S. was “unable” to help. Britain agreed to accept the children, but only if Winton found families willing to take them in. So he circulated the children’s pictures to advertise them. But even after a family chose a child, British authorities were slow in issuing travel documents. So Winton started having them forged. He also spread some money around.
Nicholas Winton: Took a bit of blackmail on my part.
Bob Simon: You were indulging in blackmail and forgery to get the children out?
Nicholas Winton: I’ve never heard it put like that before.
Bob Simon: But you seem to be enjoying it.
Nicholas Winton: It worked. That’s the main thing.
The first 20 children left Prague on March 14, 1939.
The next day, German troops occupied Prague and the rest of Czechoslovakia. Hitler rode through the streets triumphant. Hugo Meisl was 10 years old.
It wasn’t long before violence against Jews, property confiscations and forced labor that began in the Sudetenland spread throughout Czechoslovakia. But the Nazis allowed Winton’s trains to leave – in keeping with their policy to “cleanse” Europe of Jews. Hugo Meisl’s parents decided it was time to put him and his brother on one of the trains.
To learn more about the Kindertransports, Kinder and their descendants today, please see www.kindertransport.org
Over the spring and summer of 1939, seven trains carried over 600 children through the heart of Nazi Germany to Holland, where they took a ferry to the English coast. From there, they caught a train to London.
An eighth train — carrying 250 more — was scheduled to leave Prague on September 1st. But that’s the day the war began.
Nicholas Winton: They were all at the station. Even on the train, waiting to go, and war was declared. So the train never left. Never heard really what happened to all those children.
Bob Simon: But there’s reason to suspect that not many of them survived?
Nicholas Winton: I think that’s true. Yes.
Two years after that last train, the Nazis began implementing the “Final Solution” their plan to slaughter all the Jews of Europe. Czech Jews were rounded up and shipped to Theresienstadt, an old military garrison town about an hour north of Prague — their first stop on the road to annihilation.
These tracks were the exit from Theresienstadt. The only exit. The tracks led east. The trains were called Polish Transports. Destination: Auschwitz. Some 90,000 people took that one-way ride. Among them almost all the children Sir Nicholas wasn’t able to get out in time, their parents and the parents of the children already in England.
The name of every Czech Jew murdered in the Holocaust is painted on the walls of Prague’s Pinkas Synagogue. Over 77,300 names, including Arnoshtka and Pavel Meisl — Hugo’s parents.
And Nicholas Winton? During the war he volunteered for an ambulance unit for the Red Cross, then trained pilots for the Royal Air Force. He got married, raised a family, earned a comfortable living. For 50 years, he told hardly anyone what he had done.
“Other things.” For the last 50 years, Winton’s been helping mentally handicapped people and building homes for the elderly.
Nicholas Winton: We’ve just opened our second old people’s home, and it’s full. And it’s doing very well. And there are plenty of old people like me to go in.
Bob Simon: Yes, but you’re not there. You’re at home.
Nicholas Winton: Oh, I’d hate to go into one of my own homes. Don’t print that.
In 2003, Winton was knighted – and became Sir Nicholas Winton. In the Czech Republic, he’s become a national hero. And he was celebrated in a documentary called “Nicky’s Family,” but he isn’t really comfortable with all the adulation.
Nicholas Winton: I’m not interested in the past. I think there’s too much emphasis nowadays on the past and what has happened. And nobody is concentrated on the present and the future.
In 1939, Nicholas Winton used a two week vacation to go to Prague and ended up saving the lives of 669 children. In the decades since, of course, the children had children, who then had children and so on…and the numbers multiplied.
Bob Simon: If you wanna summarize it in one sentence: Guy takes a two week vacation…
Lady Milena: — and ends up with 15,000 children?
Bob Simon: It’s a pretty good story.
Lady Milena: It’s a great story.
Nicholas Winton: They’ve got children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Bob Simon: And none of them would be here if it hadn’t been for Sir Nick.
Nicholas Winton: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Terrible responsibility, isn’t it?