The Human Spirit in the Shadow of Death
Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 2006
"Unto Every Person There is a Name"
Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day
Letter from the International Committee
Six million Jews, of whom one and a half million were children, perished in the Shoah while the world remained silent. The world-wide Holocaust memorial project, “Unto Every Person There is a Name”, now in its seventeenth consecutive year, is a unique project designed to perpetuate their memory as individuals and restore their identity and dignity, through the public recitation of their names on Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. By personalizing the individual tragedies of the Jewish victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, this project counters persistent attempts to universalize the message of the Holocaust and cast off its principal characteristic as a unique calamity of Jewish people. “Unto Every Person There is a Name” also builds appreciation of the Shoah's continuing impact on the Jewish reality today, and helps to frustrate continued efforts by Holocaust deniers to present the Holocaust as a hoax.
While Yom Hashoah focuses our attention each year on the victims of the Holocaust, it also inherently provides an opportunity for us to reflect on contemporary forms of antisemitism and recommit ourselves to fight them.
The preceding year has witnessed perhaps the most extreme incongruities in relation to the international community's attitude towards the Holocaust since the Second World War. On the one hand, the UN General Assembly adopted by consensus Resolution 60/7 on November 1, 2005 establishing January 27 as the annual "International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust". Not only is this the first UNGA resolution that exhibited compassion for the plight of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, but it was the first resolution successfully proposed by the State of Israel. The resolution also urges member states to engage in Holocaust education, to reject any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, and charges the Secretary General with mobilizing civil society for Holocaust remembrance.
The first commemoration took place under this resolution on January 27, 2006 with four days of moving events at the UN that provided a platform for the most strident official statements ever by the UN Secretary General condemning the Holocaust and its denial:
"There can be no reversing the unique tragedy of the Holocaust. It must be remembered, with shame and horror, for as long as human memory continues. Only by remembering can we pay fitting tribute to the victims. Millions of innocent Jews and member of other minorities were murdered in the most barbarous ways imaginable. We must never forget those men, women and children, or their agony. Remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated. Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made."
The resolution induced additional member states to conduct their own Holocaust commemoration events.
Although the Jewish people will never again put its existence in the hands of the international community that so badly failed it during the Holocaust, this milestone will hopefully lead to a safer environment for Jews in the future. In the meantime, though, antisemitism remains the most universal of hatreds and continues to grow around the world. Physical manifestations of antisemitism increased in various countries including Russia, Canada, Ukraine and France where the antisemitic motives behind the kidnap murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris have been confirmed after initial denial by French authorities. Even the small Jewish community of Tashkent, Uzbekistan has not been spared with the rabbi of its main synagogue murdered last week. Radicals in the Islamic world continue to be a major source of vitriolic antisemitism and Holocaust denial, much of it exported to Moslem communities in Europe and Latin America and easily available on the web while Jews and Jewish communities remain a preferred target of al-Qaida.
Even more troubling, a fundamental barrier to state-sponsored antisemitism which motivated the Holocaust until the Third Reich was vanquished was breached this year in the most blatant way. In October, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not only called for the destruction of the State of Israel but also termed the Holocaust a fabrication, making both genocide and Holocaust denial the official policy of the Iranian republic. With weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, along with attendant terrorist organizations at its command, the prospect of another Holocaust became uncomfortably tangible.
As part of its efforts to counter these developments, Yad Vashem- Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority - continues this year to expand the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names that has been painstakingly built with the cooperation of Jewish communities and organizations since the 1950s. To date, half of the six million victims have been recorded and memorialized in the online Names Database at www.yadvashem.org, where one may access their brief histories and, when available, their photographs, and submit additional names. With nearly half the victims’ names still missing, it is incumbent upon us today, to recover them before the generation that remembers is no longer with us.
Collecting the Names – The Yad Vashem Database
“Unto Every Person There is a Name” events provide a unique opportunity to continue the quest to collect the names of all the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust and should be utilized to call upon members of your community to complete a “Page of Testimony” for each unregistered victim, or to volunteer to assist others with this urgent task. (Pages are available in a number of languages on the Yad Vashem website). To assist you, a new online community outreach guide to initiate local Names Recovery Campaigns is now available on the Yad Vashem website. Packed with valuable resources and materials, this free guide will enable Jewish communities to plan and implement meaningful memorial programs, names collection events and related activities around Yom Hashoah.
As the vast majority of Holocaust victims missing from the Names Database are presumed to be from the territories of the Former Soviet Union, Yad Vashem, in cooperation with local organizations, aims to contact Jewish populations where former citizens of the Soviet Union now reside - the FSU, Israel, Germany, the USA and Canada and to call upon them to urgently register the unrecorded names.
During the year, Yad Vashem will also upload the Russian version of the Names Database to the Internet in order to enable the Russian speaking population to search the Database and to submit additional victims’ names and photographs online.
"The Human Spirit in the Shadow of Death"
Central theme for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2006
During the war, European Jewry was faced with a constant struggle for its very survival. Yet even under such terrible conditions there were those who acted in areas that went beyond the necessities of human existence: they risked their lives - deliberately and intentionally - for higher values, including educating their children, maintaining religious values and traditions and sustaining centuries-old cultural activities. Unfortunately, not all those who endeavored survived, but their deeds themselves bear witness to power of the human spirit.
One phenomenon that testifies to an impressive level of spiritual survival is the effort made by Jews to document their lives in the ghettos and the camps. Artists and intellectuals, children and ordinary people, wrote and drew in order to document the fear and crisis that pervaded Jewish society. These activities were not only helpful in allowing many to rise above the humiliations and injuries they suffered, but also sometimes alerted the free world to the reality of their lives. Even in the camps themselves, one finds evidence of activity through which the prisoners transcended the barriers of their predicament and of the surrounding camp environment if only in their imaginations. While only a few took part in these activities, their importance lies not in their quantity but in the strength of spirit needed for their realization within the reality of persecution and humiliation.
Despite the predatory reality endured by the Jews, many people mobilized to assist those weaker than themselves, establishing mutual aid and welfare organizations. In the camps, helping others often became a matter of life and death, accompanied by difficult moral dilemmas. By helping another person whether with food, clothing or work the individual potentially jeopardized his own ability to survive. However, many Jews placed themselves in grave danger in order to save the lives of others, among them the Jewish partisan units, who rescued non-combatants, women and the elderly; and those who tried to protect the children and their special world. Similarly, despite their obvious powerlessness in the face of German military might, the armed underground still managed to muster the strength to act and to rebel. Jews were also engaged in rescue efforts in Nazi–occupied Europe, endangering themselves to save fellow Jews.
Personalizing the Holocaust
The International Committee of “Unto Every Person There is A Name” takes pride in the fact that its raison d’etre – advocating the personalization of the Jewish tragedy – has gained wide recognition in Israel and around the Jewish world as hundreds of Jewish communities now participate in this project. As time passes and fewer witnesses remain, it is of great importance to create a personal link between the Jewish people today and those who were murdered under the Nazi genocidal regime. Ceremonies in which names of Holocaust victims are recited together with such information as age, place of birth and place of death, personalize the tragedy of the Holocaust. Emphasis is thus put on the millions of individuals – men, women and children who were lost to the Jewish people and not solely on the cold intangibility embodied in the term “The Six Million”.
A World-Wide Effort
“Unto Every Person There Is A Name” is conducted around the world in hundreds of Jewish communities through the efforts of four major Jewish organizations: B’nai B’rith International, Nativ, the World Jewish Congress and the World Zionist Organization.
The project is coordinated by Yad Vashem, in consultation with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The project enjoys the official auspices of the office of the Speaker of the Knesset.
In Israel, the name recitation ceremonies of “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” have become an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem, as well as throughout the country.
Recitation ceremony planning recommendations
The International Committee urges organizers of “Unto Every Person” ceremonies to invite all Jewish organizations and institutions in their community, including schools, synagogues of the various streams and community centers, and Israeli diplomatic representatives, to take an active part in the name recitation ceremonies and in the Name Recovery Campaign. The Committee specifically requests that members of the four sponsoring organizations actively cooperate in order to make the ceremony as inclusive and meaningful as possible. The Committee also recommends that non-Jewish groups and leaders in your larger community be invited to participate in the recitation ceremonies, which can be held in an appropriate public setting. Local and national media, especially television, should be encouraged to cover the ceremonies. Any visual products from the ceremony should be sent to Yad Vashem in order to be archived and exhibited in the future.
We urge you to encourage young members of your community to search for names of relatives and friends who were victims of the Holocaust, to compile your own personal and local lists of names and family members for commemoration, and to submit names to Yad Vashem's Database (see above).
Additional materials prepared by Yad Vashem relating to this year's central theme are attached. Lists of names for recitation are easily available from the Yad Vashem website
The recitation ceremonies require coordination and planning but involve very little expenditure. Basic requirements for the ceremony are:
• Lists of names
• Pages of Testimony
• Yizkor and El Maleh Rahamim prayer texts
• Poem “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” by Israeli poet Zelda
• Yizkor candles
• A sound system
• Professional-standard video equipment (optional)
• A table or podium covered in black
• Sufficient volunteers to recite names
• Master of Ceremonies
We are available to answer any questions that might arrive and provide additional material as necessary.
Members of the “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” International Committee:
Rachel Barkai, Alexander Avraham (Yad Vashem); Alan Schneider (B’nai B’rith International); Laurence Weinbaum (World Jewish Congress); Naftaly Levy (World Zionist Organization); Zina Klaitman (Israel Foreign Ministry); Zvi Cantor (Nativ).
Project Initiator: Haim Roet
Referents: Yad Vashem
Rachel Barkai, Commemoration and Public Relations; Ossi Kupfer, Project Coordinator; Alexander Avraham, Hall of Names
POB 3477, Jerusalem 9103401, Israel
Tel. (972)-2-6443574; Fax (972)-2-6433569
For North America
B’nai B’rith International Center for Programming
823 United Nations Plaza, Suite 715, New York,
NY 10017, USA
Tel: (212)-490-3290; Fax: (212)-687-3429
For Eastern Europe
Dr. Laurence Weinbaum
World Jewish Congress
POB 4293, Jerusalem 91042, Israel
Tel: (972) –2-5635261; Fax. (972)-2-5635544
For West Europe, Latin America, Australia
WZO Department for Zionist Activities
POB 92, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (972)-2-6202262; Fax (972)-2-5445141
For the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Zina Kalay Kleitman
Division of World Jewish Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (972)-2-5303971; Fax: (972)-2-5303159
For the Former Soviet Union
8 Hamelacha St., POB 21609
Tel Aviv 67251, Israel
Tel: (972) 3 5639718/06; Fax: (972) 3 5639713