Israel came to a standstill today as sirens wailed across the country to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day in memory of the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany during World War II. Vehicles halted on streets and highways as Israelis stepped out and stood on the roads with heads bowed down.
Schools, public institutions and army bases will also organise a series of ceremonies to pay respects to the victims of the Holocaust with about 10,000 people expected to participate later in the day in the ‘March of the Living’ in Poland led by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. The Israeli parliament – the Knesset – will hold its annual ceremony – ‘Unto Every Person
There is a Name – in which lawmakers recite names of victims of the Nazis for nearly two hours. A similar ceremony will also be held at the Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum) in Jerusalem. Israel Defence Forces chief Gadi Eisenkot and the heads of spy agency Mossad and internal security agency Shin Bet will also participate in the March of the Living event in Poland, a three-kilometre march from the main Auschwitz concentration camp to the Birkenau extermination camp that housed the gas chambers and crematoria where the victims were killed.
The Nazis murdered some 1.1 million people at the camp, mostly Jews, but also Russians, Gypsies, Poles and members of other nationalities. The Holocaust Remembrance Day is a solemn affair in Israel with restaurants, stores and entertainment centres closed and Holocaust-themed movies and documentaries broadcast on TV and radio. Most schools and many pre-schools hold official assemblies where students honour the dead and hear stories from survivors.