Yom Hashoah 5778 – 2018

Yom Hashoah

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.

Shmuel Bogler (top left), Mirjam Lapid, Raul Teitelbaum, Yisaschar Dov Goldstein, Thea Friedman and Abba Naor are the six torchlighters at this year’s Yad Vashem ceremony (Courtesy Yad Vashem)

Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, Holocaust survivor and former Israeli chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau lights a torch at the Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.”

PM Netanyahu at the Yom Hashoah ceremony at Yad Vashem

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 Hy’d, murdered by her Muslim neighbour in Paris

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.

Keren Brosh and her grandmother, Mireille Knoll Hy’d

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.

יהי זכרם ברוך

#Never forget. May the memory of the 6 million be for a blessing.

ה’ יקום דמם. יהי זכרם ברוך.

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14 Responses to Yom Hashoah 5778 – 2018

  1. Elise "Ronan" says:

    I want you to know and to let your readers know that the course on antisemitism produced by Yad Vashem and promoted by Future Learn in the UK is a very simply class. (I was very excited when it went live, but am sorely disappointed now) It is very basic. But what is more disappointing is the number of antisemites who have wormed their way into the class. We are supposed to leave comments and they comment and are of course incredibly horrible. The sad thing is when I counter them and even tell them they are antisemitic, the Future Learn moderators tell me I am violating their Code of conduct and if I don’t stop they will ban me from the class. (Yes they remove the offending comments but that really is n’t the point) I am determined to finish the class because I will hold Future Learn to account and I will have my say.

    The truly sad thing is the nastiness of the average Brit when discussing the issues. I posted a link to Jacobson’s article, “When will Europe forgive the Jews for the Holocaust.” And would have thought that I accused every one of them of being jackboot nazis. They didn’t even read the article and one that told me he went to read it, but didn’t understand it, but remained insulted. And these are the people wanting to learn about the issue. But I suspect they didn’t want to be told to listen to what the Jews have to say about antisemitism, they wanted to tell the Jews what is antisemitism, and how it doesn’t exist in the UK.

    Truly a waste of time.

    I have messaged Yad Vashem about this on facebook. And if anyone knows the people at Yad Vashem who helped produce this class they need to be made aware of what is going on.

    • anneinpt says:

      This is terrible! I’ll be interested to hear what and if Yad Vashem reply to you.

      Do you think if the course was promoted by a different platform that the antisemites would not have been able to have a say? How do you weed out participants in an online course, that is the problem.

      As for myself, I have been shocked (seriously) at some of the antisemitic comments to tweets about Yom Hashoah. It’s as if the antisemites not only want the Jews to die, but do not want us to memorialize our victims or call out the antisemitism that caused the Shoah. This would not happen with any other race. It’s so depressing that we are over 70 years after the end of the Shoah and the antisemitism has not changed. The only difference today is that we have the State of Israel, and thank G-d for that!

      • Elise "Ronan" says:

        I think part of it, is that its free. You only have to pay if you want a certificate of completion. Making it cost for everyone may weed some out.

        Also, I think its the problem fo the platform. They only remove comments if someone flags the comments. And they only ban people if there have been a particular number of flags. I flagged one comment on holocaust denial thinking that they would ban the person, but they didn’t. I went back and have now flagged basically all his evil comments. We will see what Future Learn does with that.

        In a class like this, it would be good if the administrators of the platform actually went in and read the comments after each discussion themselves. It is very apparent who is and who is not an antisemite. It’s about care and vigilance. The way Future Learn does it, is the lazy way.

        Also in a course platform like Coursera, there is no real comment section. There are assignments that have to be handed in and read by the professors or teachers. Doing it through Future Learn I think was Yad Vashem’s lazy way out.

        I think what it comes down to, is quite frankly the antisemites are completely embolden by the antics of Corbyn, and the right wing nationalist parties in Europe. Social media platforms are rife with it, and even if twitter or facebook say they are monitoring hate speech, they don’t. We all know that. The only speech they seem to monitor is the speech that supports Israel and attacks the antisemites.

        • Jeff Polaski says:

          I’ve only taken one online course from Coursera: Sapiens, taught by Yuval Noah Harari (Hebrew University). It was outstanding, free, and demanding. Harari shifted my thinking about humanity.
          Another great contribution from Israel. He can been seen free on YouTube; the man is a gift to the world.
          I still think the one question I got wrong in the final exam was a trick question ;-).

        • anneinpt says:

          I have never heard of either of these platforms. Coursera sounds very interesting. I should look into it for myself.

          Maybe Yad Vashem chose Future Learn because they do have a comment section and wanted the back and forth? Though I can’t imagine anyone thinks that’s a good idea. Any time there is anything about Israel or Jews on the internet some of the comments are shocking.

          Your remark about monitoring on Twitter and Facebook is spot on. I was horrified by some of the comments, including outright Holocaust denial, on tweets about Yom Hashoah. How low can you go?

          • Jeff Polaski says:

            Well, this is a good resource and an example of what folks might be looking for:
            I have both taken and taught online courses. They can be very good, but more time-consuming for both students and instructor. This one is at Hebrew U and I think might be a controversial one that attracts all sorts. When I took Prof Harari’s course, things were less vocal. I ignored most of the comments, anyway, because I was focused on the teacher’s words.
            I think Class Central is an aggregation of course providers like Coursera. One stop shopping.

            • Jeff Polaski says:

              I believe that Prof. Harari’s course (by Coursera) was attended by thousands of students from every continent globally. Elise, it really was a transforming experience. Both China and Microsoft accept Coursera (and other) certificates in lieu of college courses. It appears that you took a course from my home town, Philadelphia. New Yorkers who attend Penn stay in Philly to live and work. Like our former Mayor and Governor, Ed Rendell, who moved in across the street from us after breaking up with his wife.

        • Elise "Ronan" says:

          I don’t know if you can get Coursera in Israel, but there are several courses taught by professor from tel Aviv U and Hebrew university on any number of topics. You can get certificates and put them up on your LInk’d in account. When my oldest was between masters programs one of his professors told him to take certificate programs on that platform and add it to his resume. He took programming courses, game design courses, etc. They have amazing computer related programs, history, business-I took a course from Wharton School of Business.

          Have not heard from Yad Vashem, but got a questionnaire from Future Learn about their moderating. I let them know what I think, but in a very nice way 🙂

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  3. Reality says:

    Netanyahu and Rivlin spoke so well.It’s time France does something to protect their Jewish Community.When Jews fled the Nazi regime and managed to get to Europe or the US or wherever they were allowed to enter,they were forever grateful,never taking for granted that these host countries saved them.And so the Jews acted accordingly,living within the rules and regulations of their new countries,never behaving too blatantly.As opposed to the Arab”refugees”.
    Thank G-d we have Israel our true home.I urge as many Jews as possible to come on aliyah.Here you won’t be persecuted for living as a Jew

    • anneinpt says:

      Well said Reality.

      Yet even so, with the Jews being loyal citizens in their host countries, that has not prevented the rise of antisemitism in France, in Britain, throughout Europe in fact, and even in the USA.

      Thank G-d for Israel.

  4. Jeff Polaski says:

    I also lost family in the Shoah. It took me too long to know it, to learn it, but I did. The 1900 photo of them, probably in Kiev, sits facing me across the room, and I remember every day.

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