Israel Commemorates Holocaust
Israel started its annual 24-hour remembrance day Monday evening to mark the Nazi holocaust during which six million Jews were killed.
Israel marks the day, officially called Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day, in part by honoring those who resisted the Nazis. Israelis grow up on stories of national heroism and still find it difficult to digest the fact that most European Jews were helpless before the Nazi death machine.
For Israelis, the Holocaust is proof of the need for an independent Jewish state.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in a speech at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem that "the creation of Israel is the response to attempts aimed at wiping Israel off the map of mankind."
"On behalf of the state, I pledge that there will never again be a Jew without a home and without protection," he said.
President Ezer Weizman also spoke at Yad Vashem about the Nazi genocide and the creation of the state of Israel, then turning to the future added that "there is a hope for peace with the Palestinians, and I hope there will also be an agreement with Syria. We hold out our hand to all our neighbours."
Six holocaust survivors then relit a flame in the Hall of Memory, where the names of the 22 principal Nazi death camps are inscribed.
At sunset, Israel's flags were lowered to half-mast. Cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theaters and discotheques closed for 24 hours until the end of the mourning.
Radio and television stations started airing programmes on the Nazi genocide, including a documentary on Gentiles known as the Righteous among the Nations, who risked their lives to protect Europe's Jews from Hitler.
Tuesday, the sound of sirens will start a national minute of silence – (Agencies)
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