Yom Hashoah began at sundown this evening with the annual ceremony at Yad Vashem with torches lit in memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Shoah.
You can read the torchlighters life stories here.
In his speech at the ceremony, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned Iran against its attempts at a repeat of the Shoah, as it threatened Israel for its alleged airstrike in Syria, and after Assad used chemical weapons against his own people:
“We are preventing Iranian activity in Syria. These are not just words,” Netanyahu asserted.
“Our policy can be summed up in three words: ‘Steadfastness against aggression.’ Steadfastness on defense, steadfastness on deterrence, steadfastness against anyone who threatens to destroy us,” he added.
His warning came shortly after Tehran threatened to retaliate for a deadly Monday airstrike in Syria that has been widely attributed to Israel.
Russia, Syria, Iran and the United States have all said Israel launched the missile barrage on the T-4 Air Base near Palmyra in central Syria. Israeli officials refused to comment on the strike, which reportedly killed at least 14 people, including at least seven Iranian military personnel. Hebrew media reports have indicated that the target was an Iranian base, and that a major weapons system of some kind was destroyed.
“In the Holocaust we were helpless, defenseless and voiceless,” he said. “In truth, our voice was not heard at all. Today we have a strong country, a strong army, and our voice is heard among the nations.”
There is no generation, he said, which is exempt from carrying out the mission, and “woe to the generation that evades it.”
Netanyahu also reminded the audience of the murderous intentions of Hamas in Gaza:
He reminded his listeners of the fact that a flag with a swastika was waved on the Gaza border, adding that “our hearts are torn at the sight of horror” over Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
“One big lesson that has escorted us since the Holocaust is that murderous evil that is not confronted rapidly spreads. Gradually, it threatens all of humanity,” Netanyahu warned.
“In Munich, leaders of the free world signed 80 years ago the appeasement agreement with the aggressor. They sought to avoid war, but their concessions only brought it closer, increased its damage and brought about the occupation of the whole of Europe.”
Israel, he vowed, will never act in “this mistaken way. We stop the the aggression at the bud, and these are not just empty words. We back them up with action. Attacks against attacks, attacks in defense, for deterrence, attacks against anyone who threatens to destroy us.
“Because today as well, an extremist regime threatens us, threatens peace of the entire world—this regime explicitly declares its intention to destroy us, the state of the Jewish people,” he said.
Drawing the comparison once again with the 1938 Munich Agreement in which UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed a deal with Adolf Hitler believing he had solicited guarantees from the Nazi dictator not to make any more territorial expansions, Netanyahu said that the Iran nuclear deal was similar, in the sense that “it is not worth the paper it is written on.”
UPDATE: As I write these lines the headlines have come in of rocket attacks on the South of Israel, and IDF counter-strikes on Gaza. May all our citizens and soldiers be safe.
President Reuven Rivlin, speaking at the ceremony, made a little dig at Poland as he reminded the world that no legislation can make the Jews forget the Holocaust:
President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday that no country can “legislate the forgetting” of Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The comment was apparently directed at Poland, which recently passed a law criminalizing the mention of complicity by the Polish state in the World War II genocide.
Speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, at the official state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Rivlin asserted that “Germany didn’t buy the Jews’ forgiveness, just as no nation can legislate their forgetting.”
“The Jewish people will always bear the banner of the struggle against anti-Semitism and racism,” Rivlin stated. “No political, diplomatic or economic interest can cause us to turn a blind eye to them — neither in Europe nor anywhere else.”
The president went on to invoke the Holocaust survivors murdered by Polish civilians upon returning to their homes after the war, a reality that plagued hundreds of Polish Jews that escaped Nazi horrors.
At the same time, Rivlin made sure not to sweepingly blame the entire Polish nation for the atrocities committed during the Holocaust on its soil.
… “We do not expect European countries to pass on to the younger generation a sense of guilt. However, we do expect and demand that they pass on the torch of memory and responsibility,” he said.
From the horrific events of a few weeks ago it appears that Rivlin’s lesson has definitely not been passed to France. Mireille Knoll, a Holocaust survivor, was brutally murdered in the most barbaric way by her Muslim neighbour in a manner reminiscent of the murder of Sarah Halimi a year ago.
From the first link above:
PARIS, France — Two people have been charged with the murder of an 85-year-old French Jewish Holocaust survivor, who was stabbed repeatedly and whose body was then set alight in a crime being treated as anti-Semitic, a judicial source said Tuesday.
Mireille Knoll, who escaped a mass roundup of Jews in Paris during World War II, was found dead in her apartment in eastern Paris on Friday by firefighters called to extinguish a blaze.
An autopsy showed she had been stabbed 11 times before the apartment was set on fire.
On Monday, investigators said they believed the crime was related to her religion after initially saying they were “not excluding any hypothesis.”
One of the suspects is a Muslim neighbor in his twenties whom she knew well and who had visited her that day, Knoll’s son, who did not wish to be named, told AFP.
The murder reignited the debate over anti-Semitism in working-class districts of France, where Jews have been targeted in several jihadist attacks in recent years.
Reacting on Twitter, President Emmanuel Macron condemned the “dreadful” killing and reiterated his determination in fighting anti-Semitism.
Knoll managed to avoid the notorious 1942 roundup of more than 13,000 Jews in Paris by fleeing with her mother to Portugal when she was 10.
After the war she returned to the French capital and married a Holocaust survivor, who died in the early 2000s.
Mireille’s granddaughter, who lives in Israel with her family, eulogized her grandmother at the funeral:
This year, I’m marking a decade in the IDF, still excited about saluting the Israeli flag. During my service, I’ve concluded my BA in criminology, got married, finished my MA in consulting and organizational development, and gave birth to two children—a boy and a girl.
Today I serve as an officer in the IDF Intelligence Corps.
For grandmother Mireille, I was “the IDF officer granddaughter.” She wouldn’t stop telling her friends stories about me, she was so proud. As far as she was concerned, I was in the elite Sayeret Matkal force.
One of the suspects in my grandmother’s murder is called Yassin, and I’ve known him since I was seven. As a boy, he was paid to help my grandmother do her shopping. 20 years later, she still stayed in touch with him. She loved him like a son; she would open her door when she heard him going up the stairs and would catch up with him.
Grandmother saw only the good in the world. She wasn’t like those people who watch the news and complain about all the awful things around them.
… In 1942, when she was a 10-year-old child, my grandmother was rescued from the deportation of Jews from Paris and wasn’t sent to an extermination camp. She survived the Holocaust and was murdered because of anti-Semitism. In the Facebook post I wrote after her death, I said that she didn’t deserve to die like she did. But her story is far from being over. It’s important for us that the world knows what happened to her and who she was.
What a cruel irony to escape the Holocaust, only to be murdered by the neighbour she knew so well. May Mireille Knoll’s memory be for a blessing and may her blood be avenged by G-d.
Thank G-d antisemitism in Britain has not reached the dreadful levels of France, but the Jew-hatred in the Labour Party has led the Israeli Labour Party to cut off ties with Jeremy Corbyn because of the antisemitism he fosters in his party. See the letter below:
And lest we become too complacent today with the existence of the State of Israel, it is timely to note that the Jewish People have not made up the numbers of their population since the end of the Second World War. We are still 2 million souls less than we were in the 1930s:
The world’s Jewish population today numbers some 2 million fewer than before World War II, according to figures published by the Central Bureau of Statistics ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.
The numbers, accurate as of 2016, indicate a global Jewish population of 14.511 million, compared to the 16.6 million Jews in the world in 1939 – including 449,000 living in pre-state Israel – prior to the Holocaust.
By the time Israel was founded in 1948, the Nazi genocide had reduced the number of Jews in the world to 11.5 million, including 650,000 living in the nascent Jewish state, which means that 6% of world Jewry at the time lived in Israel, compared to 44% today.
As Israel prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary, it is home to more Jews than any other country in the world – over 6.4 million, the CBS notes. The second-largest Jewish population (5.7 million) lives in the U.S., while the Jewish populations of France and Canada number 456,000 and 390,000, respectively.
Britain is home to 290,000 Jews; Argentina’s Jewish population stands at 181,000, and 176,000 Jews call Russia home. Another 117,000 Jews live in Germany and 113,000 live in Australia.
As I have done in the past, I draw your attention to my Family History pages where I have recorded the history of my family during the Shoah, especially the murder of my mother’s three brothers, David, Elchanan and Uri Strauss HY’D, in Sobibor.
#Never forget. May the memory of the 6 million be for a blessing.