Lighting memorial candles in the Hall of Remembrance
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19 April 2023
Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023 was once more marked by both traditional ceremonies and innovative online programming. This year's central theme was "Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust: Marking 80 Years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising." The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was one of many acts of armed and unarmed Jewish resistance, in response to the persecution, oppression and humiliation the Jews were suffering at the hands of Nazi Germany and its allies. Jewish resistance took many forms: spiritual, cultural, clandestine-political, educational or religious resistance; underground documentation of the events; forging identity cards and protection papers; hiding Jews; smuggling thousands of Jews across borders to safer places; escape from camps and ghettos; armed uprisings and joining national resistance movements; aiding the Allies; and more. Many of these actions were an expression of defiance by the Jews against the extreme persecution of the Germans and their accomplices, and were executed in an attempt to preserve both body and soul.
The stories of the six Holocaust survivors chosen to light the traditional six traditional torches at the State Opening Ceremony marking Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day 2023 on the night of 17 April reflected this theme. At the event, which was held, as in years past, in Warsaw Ghetto Square on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, President H.E. Mr. Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu both delivered remarks to the audience; Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan kindled the Memorial Torch; Shoshana Weis spoke on behalf of the survivors; and in place of Ephraim Mol, who was taken ill the day before the ceremony, singer Shuli Rand recited "El Maleh Rahamim," the Jewish prayer for the souls of the martyrs.
After beseeching the audience to unite during these "Days of Awe," President Herzog recalled the horrifying "Museum of Skulls and Skeletons of a Distinct Race" created by the Nazis in order to justify their genocidal acts. However, he remarked, "with human courage and divine assistance, spirit triumphed; the spirit of our people, who raised themselves up with scarred wings from the gruesome depths of the Holocaust.
"Survivors of the Holocaust: with your power, your choice to live, you serve us as a source of inspiration and hope."
Prime Minister Netanyahu continued in this vein. "These scars of pain will remain with us forever," he stated. Nevertheless,
"the terrible dark chapters of the survivors' lives were followed by chapters of light," during which they chose life and helped others, stirring the hearts of people around the world.
During the ceremony, which was broadcast live with simultaneous translation into seven languages including Arabic, songs and narrative pieces were performed by Israeli performer Keren Peles, as well as opera singers Yair Polishook, Shahaf Regev and Yoav Ayalon. As in past years, the ceremony also featured a traditional memorial service, including the recitation of a chapter from Psalms by Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau, and the Kaddish mourner's prayer by the Rishon LeZion, Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
This year, for the first time, Yad Vashem partnered with the "Shem VeNer – Our 6 Million" organization to start a new tradition for Holocaust Remembrance Day: lighting memorial candles bearing the identity of a Holocaust victim in the Hall of Remembrance for those individuals attending the State Opening Ceremony, as well as for the general public the following day in Warsaw Ghetto Square.
The following morning, after the siren was heard throughout the country at exactly 10 am, Israel's President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Knesset, President of the Supreme Court, representatives of survivor and fighter organizations and delegations from Israel and abroad, took part in the Wreath-laying Ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance. “Unto Every Person There is a Name” – the annual public recitation of Holocaust victims’ names lest they be forgotten – took place in Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance, where the Main Memorial Ceremony was held later on. The day came to its traditional close in the Valley of the Communities with the Youth Movements Ceremony, at which Holocaust survivor Chava Friedman, 91, lit a memorial torch and addressed the audience.
New at Yad Vashem: Book of Names
In advance of Holocaust Remembrance Day 2023, Yad Vashem opened to the public its updated "Book of Names of Holocaust Victims" – a unique exhibit immortalizing 4,800,000 individual victims, whose details have been painstakingly gathered over the years. Whenever possible, the listings in the Book of Names also contain the birth dates, home towns, and circumstances and places of death of the respective victims.
A strip of light runs the length of the inside of the Book of Names, illuminating the memory of the Holocaust victims for all to remember. At the end of the Book of Names there are blank pages symbolizing more than one million identities yet to be recovered from the nameless murdered. The huge dimensions of the Book point to the collective, unimaginable and enormous loss for humanity as a whole, and the Jewish people in particular.
Yad Vashem Online
Yad Vashem created special mini-sites dedicated to Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day containing information about the events and ceremonies taking place throughout the day, as well as relevant educational materials.
"Designing Memory": Winning Poster 2023
The winner of this year's national competition to design the official poster for Holocaust Remembrance Day was 25-year-old Mai Nizan from Ramat Hasharon, a fourth-year visual communication design student at the Holon Institute of Technology, and granddaughter of Holocaust survivor Emanuel (Farhi) Nizan, z"l. According to Mai:
"The black in the center of the poster [an outline of the Warsaw ghetto] reflects the stain left by the war on humanity and the decline of moral values; on the other hand, the sun orb symbolizes the regenerating power of nature, growth and hope in the shadow of hardship."
The winning poster was distributed to schools, youth movements and IDF bases across Israel, accompanied by a lesson plan written by members of the International School for Holocaust Studies, as well as to Israeli missions abroad and public and private organizations.