On this day we remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. This year’s central theme is "Children in the Holocaust."
Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah in Hebrew) is a national day of commemoration in Israel, on which the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialized. It is a solemn day, beginning at sunset on the 26th of the month of Nisan (Monday evening, April 20, 2009) and ending the following evening, according to the traditional Jewish custom of marking a day. Places of entertainment are closed and memorial ceremonies are held throughout the country.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "This evening, the State of Israel marks Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. Six million of our brethren were massacred during the Holocaust. Sadly, not everyone learned the lesson. While we gather to honor their memory, in Switzerland there will assemble a conference allegedly aimed against racism. Its guest-of-honor is a racist Holocaust-denier who does not hide his intentions to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. I commend the countries that are boycotting this show of hatred. As opposed to those dark days, today a strong Jewish state stands to ensure the continued existence of the Jewish people in the face of this new anti-Semitism."
This year’s central theme is "Children in the Holocaust." During the annual "Unto Every Person There is a Name" ceremony, the names ofchildren murdered in the Holocaust will be read aloud.
About one and a half million of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust were children. The number of children who survived is estimated in the mere thousands. Some found refuge in the homes of decent people whose conscience would not allow them to remain passive; others were hidden in convents, monasteries and boarding schools; still others were forced to roam through forests and villages, relying entirely on their own ingenuity and resourcefulness. Many were forced to live under assumed identities, facing constant fear and danger, where a wrong word could lead to discovery and death. Some were so young when separated from their parents that they forgot their real names and Jewish identity.
At the end of the war, many of these children were lost to their families and their Jewish heritage forever. For others, the war’s end marked a beginning of their return to their real selves. Very slowly, they emerged from hiding, from the forests and the camps, and began the long and painful process of rehabilitation. Liberation did not end their suffering as most had no home to return to, no family to take them in.
The central ceremonies of Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day are held at Yad Vashem and are broadcast on Israel television. In the presence of the President of the State of Israel and the Prime Minister, dignitaries, survivors, children of survivors and their families gather together with the general public to take part in the memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem in which six torches, representing the six million murdered Jews, are lit. The following morning, the ceremony at Yad Vashem begins with the sounding of a siren for two minutes throughout the entire country. For the duration of the sounding, work is halted, people walking in the streets stop, cars pull off to the side of the road and everybody stands at silent attention in reverence to the victims of the Holocaust.
Afterward, the focus of the ceremony at Yad Vashem is the laying of wreaths at the foot of the six torches, by dignitaries and the representatives of survivor groups and institutions. A ceremony for youth movements with the participation of hundreds of youth will take place in the Valley of Communities at Yad Vashem. Other sites of remembrance in Israel, such as the Ghetto Fighters’ Kibbutz and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, also host memorial ceremonies, as do schools, military bases, municipalities and places of work.