Yad Vashem - The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority
Special Alert, May 2009
Pope Benedict XVI Makes Historic Visit to Israel
Moving Memorial Ceremony Takes Place at Yad Vashem
World’s Largest Collection of Holocaust Survivor Video Testimonies

On May 11, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Yad Vashem where he took an active part in a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, thereby conveying an influential message regarding the importance of Holocaust remembrance to Catholic followers and believers. A visit of the utmost importance, it will increase Holocaust awareness around the world.

As the Pope arrived at Yad Vashem, he was greeted by Chairman of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev, President of Israel Shimon Peres, Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau. Among the dignitaries, guests and valued partners of Yad Vashem who welcomed the Pope were Benefactors Marcos Katz of Mexico, Yossi and Dana Hollander of the USA and Israel, and Ed Mosberg of the USA and Israel. An a capella choir of young women opened the ceremony singing a stirring rendition of “A Walk to Casearea,” a poem written by the young Chana Senesz in 1942, composed shortly before she left on her mission to Nazi-occupied Europe from which she did not return. After rekindling the eternal flame, the Pope laid a memorial wreath, praying before the crypt containing the ashes of Jews murdered in the extermination camps. The Pope then greeted six Holocaust survivors and a Righteous Among the Nations, stopping to shake hands and have a short conversation with each of them. The traditional prayer for the Jewish dead, “El Maleh Rachamim” was then sung by a cantor.

World’s Largest Collection of Holocaust Survivor Video Testimonies

The Pope addressed the assembled group of guests, dignitaries and media, stressing the importance of remembering the victims of the Holocaust and their identities, which are embodied by their names. Expressing respect and compassion for the victims, he spoke of his gratitude for having “the opportunity to stand here in silence: a silence to remember, a silence to pray, a silence to hope. ”His remarks referred to Holocaust denial and the need to recall the suffering of the victims.

Holocaust Art Presented to the Pope
World’s Largest Collection of Holocaust Survivor Video Testimonies

Yad Vashem presented the Pope with an exceptional gift, a facsimile of a painting by the Jewish artist Felix Nussbaum who was murdered in the Holocaust. The painting addresses Nussbaum’s Jewish identity and faith, which took central stage in his creative endeavors only in the midst of the Holocaust. The original painting, Camp Synagogue, is on display at the Museum of Holocaust Art at Yad Vashem.

Guest Book

Signing the guest book, the Pope ended his visit writing: “His mercies are not spent,” quoting from the book of Lamentations. The entire gathering then stood and sang “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, concluding the visit.

More information about the visit can be found on www.yadvashem.org

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