People stand still on Jaffa road, central Jerusalem, as a two-minute siren is sounded across Israel to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

By Bartholomew Madukwe with Agency Report

The World War II is an history to many countries but to Israel it is an unforgettable memory following the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis during the war. Israelis, last Thursday (April 12, 2018), had a two-minute standstill to remember the dead. As a siren wails across the country, pedestrians stopped in their tracks, cars pulled over on highways and roads, many people exit their vehicles to stand still as part of events for the Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Decades after the liberation of the Nazi camps, the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day continues to be marked with solemnity in Israel, with restaurants, stores and entertainment centers closed and Holocaust-themed movies and documentaries broadcast on TV and radio.

Most schools and many preschools hold official assemblies where students honor the dead and hear stories from survivors.

The Holocaust Remembrance Day falls on the same date as the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the ultimately doomed revolt that played such an important role in defining Israel’s national psyche.

Holocaust Remembrance Day events were launched on Wednesday evening with the official state ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, reports timesofisrael.

Speaking at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, during the official state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, pointed out 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, reports timesofisrael.

10th and current President of Israel since 2014, 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. No political, diplomatic or economic interest can cause us to turn a blind eye to them, neither in Europe nor anywhere else.”

According to him, the citizens of Poland, just as the citizens of France, the Soviet Union and other countries, were murdered by the Nazis.

“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,” Rivlin added.

Meanwhile, it will be recalled that in February, the Polish passed a law that calls for prison terms of up to three years for attributing the crimes of Nazi Germany to the Polish state or nation. The law also sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone who refers to Nazi German death camps as Polish.

The law held that, “Whoever claims, publicly and contrary to the facts, that the Polish Nation or the Republic of Poland is responsible or co-responsible for Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich… or for other felonies that constitute crimes against peace, crimes against humanity or war crimes, or whoever otherwise grossly diminishes the responsibility of the true perpetrators of said crimes shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for up to three years.”

DIPLOMATIC RELATIONSHIP

The legislation, which was introduced by Poland’s conservative ruling party, has sparked a bitter dispute with Israel, which says it will inhibit free speech about the Holocaust.

The United States also strongly opposes the legislation, warning it could hurt Poland’s strategic relations with Israel and the US.

Jewish groups, Holocaust survivors and Israeli officials fear its true aim is to repress research on Poles who killed Jews during World War II. The law and subsequent backlash have unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism in Poland.

Earlier this month, senior Israeli and Polish diplomats met in Jerusalem in a bid to resolve differences, with both sides vowing to preserve “the truth.”

ISRAEL’S IDENTIFICATION

Israel’s identity is defined by the axiom that never again will Jews be helpless in the face of annihilation.

Israel came to a standstill at 10 a.m. Thursday. Buses and cars halted on streets and highways as Israelis stepped out of their vehicles and stood with heads bowed.

The sirens were followed by ceremonies marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in schools, public institutions and army bases. Later in the day the traditional “March of the Living” began in Poland.

Diplomatic Watch gathered that the traditional wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, at the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It was followed by various events and activities, including the main memorial ceremony at 1 p.m., and a youth movements assembly was held at 5:30 p.m.

HOW IT WAS NAMED “HOLOCAUST”

At 11 a.m. the Knesset marked the day with its annual ceremony titled “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” in which lawmakers recite names of victims of the Nazis for nearly two hours. A similar ceremony was also held at Yad Vashem. The ceremony’s name comes from a famous poem by the Israeli poet Zelda Schneersohn Mishkovsky (commonly referred to by her first name alone). The song version of the poem is often played at memorial ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the annual “March of the Living” began in Poland at 2:30 p.m. (Israel time), led by President Rivlin. IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot and the heads of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and Shin Bet security service also attended, along with over 10,000 people. They participated in a three-kilometer (two-mile) march from the main Auschwitz concentration camp to the Birkenau extermination camp, which housed the gas chambers and crematoria.

The Nazis killed some 1.1 million people at the camp, mostly Jews, but also Russians, Gypsies, Poles and members of other nationalities.

Events concluded at 7:30 p.m. with ceremonies at Kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta’ot and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in Israel’s north.