Yom Hashoah this year took on a much more subdued tone than in normal times due to the strictures imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time ever the ceremony was broadcast online while the host and choir addressed an empty audience:
Despite Yad Vashem’s Warsaw Ghetto Square being eerily deserted, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day ceremony nevertheless went ahead in perhaps the strangest circumstances of the country’s history.In the shadow of the coronavirus epidemic, the host of the ceremony addressed an empty square and vocalists performed without an audience – but the speeches from the country’s leaders, the stories of survivors and the prayers for those murdered all went ahead regardless.Speaking via video, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the fight against the coronavirus outbreak was perhaps the biggest global crisis since the end of the Second World War.He noted that during the Holocaust, multitudes of Jews died from disease due to the inhuman conditions imposed upon them by the Nazis, but said that although Israelis face today another contagion, the circumstances could not be more different.“Today we have a national home, we have our own country. A strong, advanced country which is much appreciated,” said Netanyahu.He noted that earlier this year, the country had hosted many world leaders at Yad Vashem to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz and pledge to fight antisemitism, saying that they had been impressed with the Jewish’s states success in “replacing helplessness with power and mighty accomplishments.”…President Reuven Rivlin also delivered a recorded address, saying that the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant difficulties should not cloud out the memory of the past.“We must remember! We remember! We will continue to remember! For our own sakes, and for future generations,” said the president.“Even in these difficult times, when we are confronting a global pandemic and the current sense of anxiety, we hear and make place for remembering the past, the victims and you, the survivors. You, who survived humanity’s darkest hour. A catastrophe brought by humans on humans.”
The traditional six torch-lighters at the ceremony could not be present but their stories were broadcast on the online ceremony and the torches lit in an empty auditorium.
A positive note took place today when Mansour Abbas, an Arab MK, and member of the Arab Joint List, addressed the Knesset in honor of Yom Hashoah for the first time, condemning Holocaust denial and mourning the deaths of the 6 million:
MK Mansour Abbas, head of the religious United Arab List party that is part of the Joint List, eulogized the victims of the Holocaust in a speech to the Knesset on Tuesday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the first Arab MK to do so. Abbas said that he was uttering a prayer from the Quran in memory of the souls of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.“As a religious Palestinian Muslim Arab, who was raised on the legacy of Sheikh Abdallah Nimr Darwish who founded the Islamic Movement, I have empathy to the pain and suffering over the years of Holocaust survivors and the families of the murdered. I stand here to show solidarity with the Jewish people here and forever,” said Abbas.Abbas said that he would speak about the Holocaust “not from books or from internet quotes, but rather from an moral worldview and internal contemplation on the person inside me and historical insights formed through a number of years.”“I bow my head before the heroism of women and men who started the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against the decree of death and the feeling of despair to protect the human image,” said Abbas. “I also bow my head before heroes from multiple nations, righteous among the nations, Christians, Muslims and other, especially Muslim Arabs in the great mosque of Paris and in and in the Muslim country of Albania that took in and protected Jews throughout the war.”…“Holocaust denial is a remnant of Nazi ideology. It is a moral failure and its betrayal of the values of truth and justice is a transgression of a fundamental principle in Islam, the testimony of truth and justice,” said Abbas.“Politicians or religious men or any person who doesn’t manage to shake off racism or hatred of the other or doesn’t stop inciting conflict and war should not touch the Holocaust and should not desecrate their sanctity,” added the Arab MK.Members of the Joint List who were at the Knesset on Tuesday morning stood in silence among the rest of the MKs present for the two minute siren sounded to mark a moment of silence for those killed in the Holocaust.
But lest we get too comfortable in our glorious present in the Land of Israel, the land where our persecuted forebears could only dream of reaching, antisemites, disguised as “only” anti-Israel activists, disrupted a Yom Hashoah memorial ceremony in Berlin – yes, the place where it all began:
Anti-Israel activists disrupted a Zoom meeting by the Israeli Embassy in Berlin commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day by posting pictures of Hitler and shouting antisemitic slogans, according to Israel’s Ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff.The event, which hosted Holocaust survivor Zvi Herschel, was suspended and reconvened shortly afterwards without the activists.
But let us not dwell on the haters. Watch this moving video from the haredi town of Betar Illit:
Similarly I saw on the Israeli TV news much-maligned haredim (ultra-Orthodox Jews) standing to attention during the siren, and those who were outdoors were wearing masks. The corona pandemic has united us all and brought out the best in our nation.
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.
ה’ יקום דמם. יהי זכרם ברוך