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Remembrance

Holocaust Survivors in Israel:
60 Years Since the Establishment of the State

Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2008

"Unto Every Person There is a Name"

Letter from the International Committee “Unto Every Person There Is A Name”

Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day
1 May 2008 – 26 Nissan 5768

Introduction

Six million Jews, among them one-and-a-half million children, were murdered in the Shoah while the world remained silent. The worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There is a Name”, now in its nineteenth 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 efforts by enemies of the State of Israel and the Jewish people to deny the reality of the Holocaust and cast it as history’s seminal hoax. “Unto Every Person” also defies attempts to universalize this genocide and cast off its principal characteristic as a unique calamity of the Jewish people, while also building appreciation of the Shoah's tragic impact on the Jewish reality until today.

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 Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and enjoys the official auspices of President of the State of Israel, the Hon. Shimon Peres.  In his letter to community leaders around the world, the President wrote:

“As we prepare to celebrate Israel’s 60 years of independence, as we revisit our history, there is joy and also indelible grief.   All Jews share a sacred obligation to honor and remember those who were torn from us in the Holocaust.  You, the initiators of the worldwide Holocaust memorial project “Unto Every Person There Is A Name”, have my appreciation and respect for fulfilling this obligation.  The public recitation of names each year gives substance to the unspeakable and a voice to those who had none.

We have come a long way in 60 years, but not so far that certain elements in the world have stopped dreaming of our destruction.  We counter by creating the stuff of life: breakthroughs in science and medicine and hi-tech.  We are able to move forward because we are unwilling to forget our history.”

In Israel, “Unto Every Person There Is A Name” has become an integral part of the official Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremonies, with the central events held at the Knesset and at Yad Vashem with the participation of elected officials, as well as events throughout the country.

An opportunity for reflection

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 counter them. As noted in the recently-released US State Department Report “Contemporary Global Antisemitism”, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, antisemitism is not just a fact of history, it is a current event.

While antisemitic incidents directed against Jewish individuals and institutions, including physical attacks, abuse, property damage and cemetery desecration, continued around the world in 2007 – on a scale that has stabilized or decreased in most countries since last year - new mutations of antisemitism now pose a real and present danger to the Jewish people. The major new concern is the increase in the scope and intensity of discourse that denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and seeks the destruction of the State of Israel. This form of political antisemitism – the delegitimization of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish People - is now widely accepted by scholars as a modern metamorphosis of traditional Jew-hatred into vilification of the Jewish state.

This genocidal variety of anti-Zionism, without parallel since World War II, is found in its most vitriolic form in the statements of Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad who recently referred to Israel as “a dirty microbe called the Zionist regime” which was created by the world powers and “unleashed on the region’s nations” to keep them under control. Coupled with statements by other leaders of the Iranian regime that "the cancerous bacterium called Israel" would soon vanish and Ahmadinejad’s earlier predictions that it will be “wiped from the map” and denial of the Holocaust, this toxic convergence of religious ideology and the means of physical destruction presents only the most arrogant and grotesque form of this trend that permeates the Moslem world today. Using ancient Islamic sources, Moslem spokesmen continue to equate Jews with apes and pigs in an effort, reminiscent of the Nazi era, to dehumanize Jews and make their eventual extermination more palatable, even desirable. Fundamentalist Islamic clerics in the Palestinian Authority and elsewhere continue to rely on direct quotes from the Koran to support the annihilation of Jews and other non-believers as a positive religious commandment. Criticism of Arab antisemitism is pre-empted around the world by accusations of Islamophobia.

These growing threats must be met by Jewish communities, organizations and institutions and their supporters in cooperation with the State of Israel and friendly governments.

Collecting the Names – The Yad Vashem Database

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, over half of the six million victims have been recorded and memorialized in the online Names Database, 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.

“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. Participants in “Unto Every Person there is a Name” are urged to join Yad Vashem’s global network of volunteers collecting the names of all the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust by recording their names, biographical details and photographs on Pages of Testimony. New online resources are available to enhance outreach efforts.

"Holocaust Survivors in Israel: 60 Years Since the Establishment of the State" - Central theme for Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2008.

Following World War II and the Holocaust – immediately before and after the founding of the State of Israel - thousands of Jews immigrated to Israel, some in the mass movement known as the Bericha (escape) that propelled them to the shores of Mediterranean. Their ultimate dream was Eretz Yisrael, where they longed to join the Jewish settlement and participate in the struggle for national independence. Teenagers who had been left alone in the world, together with women, children, partisans and soldiers in the Allied armies, boarded ships to make their way clandestinely across the sea. Many were arrested by the British Mandatory authorities and released only after the state was declared in May 1948. Once in Israel many young people rushed to join the defense forces, fighting and dying on every front in the War of Independence.

With the birth of the state, a new battle was set before them: the struggle to build a life. They were not deterred by the harsh conditions. They strove for these goals relentlessly out of a keen desire to become part of Israeli society. With little or no government assistance the immigrants built their new lives, clinging to their Jewish identity and becoming active partners in the most important endeavor of the Jewish people in the 20th century – the establishment of the State of Israel. They were also committed to commemorating their own families, communities and each one of the six million Holocaust victims. Today, having established their lives and merited to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren, the survivors wish to tell the story of their immigration, absorption and contribution – a wondrous achievement that knows no equal in human history.

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”.

Recitation ceremony planning recommendations

1. Outreach: 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 Names 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.

2. Family names retrieval: 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).

3. Names recovery campaign: Should you choose to utilize the ceremony to kick-off a names recovery campaign, please refer to Yad Vashem’s online Community Outreach Guide for new resources. Packed with tips and materials, including short movie clips and print-quality files of promotional materials, this resource will enable Jewish communities and educators to plan and implement meaningful programs, names collection events and related activities around Yom Hashoah and throughout the year.  Promotional CDs and posters are also now available in English, Hebrew and Russian. (To order please send your name, mailing address and phone number, stating how many you require to: names.proj@yadvashem.org.il with subject header: “Poster Order.”) Display the posters together with Pages of Testimony (available in various languages on the Yad Vashem website, see below) to advertise the ongoing campaign to collect Holocaust victims’ names. Conditions permitting, you may screen the heartwarming story (available on the online Community Outreach Guide) of Hilda Glasberg, who after a lifetime of believing that most of her immediate family had perished in the Holocaust, was reunited with her brother Simon Glasberg after 65 years. The reunion took place after Hilda’s grandchildren searched The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names in an effort to piece together the puzzle of their family’s fate.

Educators may make use of the "The Stories Behind the Names", lesson plans that utilize pictures and information from Pages of Testimony, to teach about the people and communities the Nazis destroyed.  The material is geared to varying age groups and focuses on the meaning and importance of commemoration through Pages of Testimony, as well as the practical aspects of collecting and completing them.

4. Ceremony requirements: The recitation ceremonies require coordination and planning but involve very little expenditure. Basic requirements for the ceremony are:

  • Poem "Unto Every Person There Is A Name" by Israeli poet Zelda
  • Lists of names (available online)
  • Pages of Testimony (available online)
  • Yizkor and El Maleh Rahamim prayer texts
  • Yizkor candles
  • A sound system
  • Professional-standard video equipment. (The organizing committee intends to produce a film of this year’s ceremonies. Please submit materials to area referents below)
  • A table or podium covered in black
  • Sufficient volunteers to recite names
  • Master of Ceremonies

We are available to answer any questions that might arise and provide additional material as necessary.

Sincerely,
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); Aviva Raz Schechter (Israel Foreign Ministry); Ritta Tarlow (Nativ).

Project Initiator: Haim Roet

Committee Members

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
general.information@yadvashem.org.il

For more information about the Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project contact:
Cynthia Wroclawski, Outreach Manager
The Shoah Victims' Names Recovery Project
Yad Vashem, POB 3477
Jerusalem, 9103401 ISRAEL
Tel: 972-2-644-3470
cynthia.wroclawski@yadvashem.org.il

For North America
Rhonda Love
B’nai B’rith International Center for Programming
801 Second Avenue, 14th Floor, New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212)-490-3290; Fax: (212)-687-3429
Rlove@bnaibrith.org

For Eastern Europe
Dr. Laurence Weinbaum
World Jewish Congress
POB 4293, Jerusalem 91042, Israel
Tel: (972)–2-6333000 Fax. (972)-2-633 3011
Laurence@wjc.co.il

For Western Europe, Latin America, Australia
Naftaly Levy
WZO Department for Zionist Activities
POB 92, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (972)-2-6202262; Fax (972)-2-5445141
naftalil@jazo.org.il

For the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Aviva Raz Schechter
Department for Antisemitism and Holocaust Issues
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jerusalem, Israel
Tel: (972)-2-5303696; Fax: (972)-2-5303159
avivar@mfa.gov.il

For the Former Soviet Union
Ritta Tarlow
Nativ
8 Hamelacha St., POB 21609
Tel Aviv 67251, Israel
Tel: (972) 3 5639730; Fax: (972) 3 5614223
rittat@nativ.gov.il

Annex I

Contemporary Antisemitism – 2008 update

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 anti-Semitism and recommit ourselves to counter them. As noted in the recently-released US State Department Report “Contemporary Global Antisemitism”, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not just a fact of history, it is a current event.

While antisemitic incidents directed against Jewish individuals and institutions, including physical attacks, abuse, property damage and cemetery desecration,  continued around the world in 2007 – on a scale that has stabilized or decreased in most countries since last year - new mutations of antisemitism now pose a real and present danger to the Jewish people. The major new concern is the increase in the scope and intensity of discourse that denies the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and seeks the destruction of the State of Israel. This form of political antisemitism – the delegitimization of the State of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland of the Jewish People - is now widely accepted by scholars as a modern metamorphosis of traditional Jew-hatred into vilification of the Jewish state.

This genocidal variety of anti-Zionism, without parallel since World War II, is found in its most vitriolic form in the statements of Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad who recently referred to Israel as “a dirty microbe called the Zionist regime” which was created by the world powers and “unleashed on the region’s nations” to keep them under control. Coupled with statements by other leaders of the Iranian regime that "the cancerous bacterium called Israel" would soon vanish and Ahmadinejad’s earlier predictions that it will be “wiped from the map” and denial of the Holocaust, this toxic convergence of religious ideology and the means of physical destruction presents only the most arrogant and grotesque form of this trend that permeates the Moslem world today. Using ancient Islamic sources, Moslem spokesmen continue to equate Jews with apes and pigs in an effort, reminiscent of the Nazi era, to dehumanize Jews and make their eventual extermination more palatable, even desirable. Fundamentalist Islamic clerics in the Palestinian Authority and elsewhere continue to rely on direct quotes from the Koran to support the annihilation of Jews and other non-believers as a positive religious commandment. Criticism of Arab anti-Semitism is pre-empted around the world by accusations of Islamophobia.

The political and intellectual leadership of Israel’s Arab minority has also adopted the attitude of political antisemitism, issuing four separate papers calling for the effective dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state and warning PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas against the recognition of Israel as such in any future peace agreement.

The notion of a Jewish nation state is also under attack in western political discourse. Israel is demonized, delegitimized and judged by double standards while Jews are accused of disloyalty, perverting the interests of their countries and leading them to war for Israel’s sake. At international organizations such as the UN, Israel is singled out in campaigns to deprive it of sovereign rights – such as the right of self defense. This exclusive focus on Israel ultimately damages the just cause of universal human rights. Israel also faces defamation on university campuses where it is regularly accused of being an apartheid state; and since apartheid is considered a crime against humanity, Israel must be treated ipso facto as a criminal state with no legal justification for its existence. The left now regularly equates Zionism with Nazism, apartheid and colonialism, so that in intellectual circles the rejection of Zionism has become a pre-requisite in the struggle for human rights. The corollary of this argument is that the Palestinians are the new Jews, victims of a hoax called the Holocaust. The far Right has also learned to wrap its antisemitism in a “legitimate” anti-Zionist halo so that their antisemitic goods can also be sold with respectability. This strategy of dehumanization of Jews and the Jewish state, which can be traced back to the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa in 2001, transforms Israel into a valid target and legitimizes all forms of violence against it, from academic and commercial boycotts to terrorism. Within a short time it has gained sanction from Western media, and ecclesiastic, political and academic elites.

Based on material compiled by the Coordination Forum for Combating Antisemitism, Germany was the only EU member country to experience a net increase in anti-semitic activity in 2007. At the same time, a number of EU leaders – particularly French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been outspoken in 2007 in committing themselves to combat antisemitism. In Australia too the increase resulted from a stronger extreme Right, the power of the Muslim community (primarily the Lebanese-Shiite community), and the Left's support of the Palestinians. In Russia, the number of anti-Semitic incidents remains relatively high, with increased racism and xenophobia. In 2007, the government was relatively vigorous in enforcing the law against racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism. Hungary, Poland, the Baltic States, and Belarus have a small number of antisemitic incidents, but an antisemitic atmosphere exists in public discourse. In the Ukraine, increased antisemitic activity was registered, with incidents moving from spontaneous, unorganized activity to planned activity. This included the participation of political parties whose platforms include antisemitic elements and decorating historically nationalistic personalities who took part in the murder of Jews. Wide-scale distribution of antisemitic propaganda materials, some of them calling for physical injury to Jews, much of it sponsored by MAUP, was also a feature of 2007 in the Ukraine, where the influence of recently-established law enforcement bodies has not yet been felt. In the United States the number of antisemitic incidents declined for the third consecutive year to 1,357 incidents of vandalism, harassment and other acts of hate against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions in 2007, representing a 13 percent decline from the 1,554 incidents reported in 2006. In Latin America, Venezuela, under President Hugo Chavez, continues to provide a pipeline for Iran and Hezbollah into the continent, while threatening its Jewish population and vilifying the State of Israel.

Holocaust denial – another form of antisemitism - increased worldwide in 2007, following a temporary lull in 2006 due to the imprisonment of leading denier David Irving, in Austria. A study issued by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies attributed this to Irving’s release and return to the lecture circuit, while other deniers continued their efforts in various countries, including holding a conference in Italy to defend Holocaust denial. At the same time, efforts by some European governments, especially Germany and Austria, to prosecute Holocaust deniers helped curb the extent of denial activity. In other positive developments, the United Nations General Assembly and UNESCO both passed resolutions opposing Holocaust denial and the European Union urged all its member-states to adopt legislation prohibiting Holocaust denial. In the Middle East, some Arab and Muslim regimes continued to sponsor Holocaust denial and sought to impede anti-denial UN resolutions.  In addition, a poll found a substantial level of Holocaust denial among Israeli Arabs, while at least two prominent Muslims, a minister in Indonesia and the president of the Islamic Society of North America, condemned it.

While the wide dissemination of antisemitic material on the Internet has been a concern for a decade, the latest Web 2.0 technology offers a new domain for social networking which, along with its positive attributes, also allows the sharing of demonization, conspiracy theories, holocaust denial and classical antisemitic motifs. Scholarship undertaken by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs indicates that this phenomenon is spreading antisemitism and acceptability of antisemitism in new and increasingly effective ways, particularly among young people.

At the same time, efforts are being made in some quarters to stem this tide. In February the Israeli government convened the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, at which some 300 participants from 45 countries – many of them non-Jews – vowed to counter antisemitism and announced the formation of the International Coalition to Combat Antisemitism that will focus initially on antisemitic terrorism. In Great Britain – where, despite an overall decrease in the number of incidents, antisemitic activity is still the highest in Europe, followed by France – the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, issued in September 2006, remains a sterling model for all states to follow.

Annex II

Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project

Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims’ Names Recovery Project is calling on the international Jewish community to take an active role in recovering the names of Shoah Victims before they are lost FOREVER. Participants of “Unto Every Person there is a Name” are invited to join our global network of volunteers collecting the names of all the Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust by recording their names, biographical details and photographs on Pages of Testimony.

Over the years many survivors have refrained from dealing with their wartime experiences because the memories were so painful.  We have discovered that most survivors have a strong psychological need to commemorate the people who they lost but if they have not done this yet - they need assistance with this task now. Through a one-on-one outreach / visiting program, our volunteers work with survivors and others in their communities to help them remember and record the names of the victims so they will be remembered for generations to come. 

We invite you to view our Pages of Testimony Tutorial video, which we created to demonstrate how to help survivors and others from their generation to fill out Pages of Testimony and memorialize Jews they know of who were murdered in the Holocaust. The video presents a volunteer visiting with two women in their homes to assist them in recalling and recording the names of Shoah victims on Pages of Testimony. The video is ideal for screening at volunteer training sessions or to provide tips and insight for individuals wishing to embark on this project.

In addition we urge you to make use of a variety of NEW ONLINE RESOURCES designed to enhance your outreach efforts and help you plan and implement your Names Recovery campaign. Packed with tips and materials, short movie clips and print-quality files of promotional materials, our community outreach guide will enable Jewish communities and educators to plan and implement meaningful memorial programs, names collection events and related activities around Yom Hashoah and throughout the year.

Promotional posters and CDs are now available in English, Hebrew or Russian. Display the posters together with Pages of Testimony (available in a number of languages on the Yad Vashem website) to advertise the ongoing campaign to collect Holocaust victims’ names. To order please send your name, mailing address and phone number, stating how many you require to: names.proj@yadvashem.org.il with subject header: “Materials Order.”

Annex III

Everyone Has a Name

Everyone Has a Name
given to him by God
and given to him by his parents
Everyone has a name
given to him by his stature
and the way he smiles
and given to him by his clothing
Everyone has a name
given to him by the mountains
and given to him by the walls
Everyone has a name
given to him by the stars
and given to him by his neighbors
Everyone has a name
given to him by his sins
and given to him by his longing
Everyone has a name
given to him by his enemies
and given to him by his love
Everyone has a name
given to him by his holidays
and given to him by his work
Everyone has a name
given to him by the seasons
and given to him by his blindness
Everyone has a name
given to him by the sea and
given to him
by his death.

Zelda