The audience comprised representatives of 50 countries around the world
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27 January 2019
On Thursday, 24 January 2019, Yad Vashem hosted its Annual Event for the International Diplomatic Corps in Israel marking the UN-sanctioned International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Ambassadors and diplomatic representatives from over 50 countries were greeted by Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and Israel's Minister of Education Naftali Bennett. Shalev reminded the gathered diplomats of the essential facts of Holocaust history, and called upon them not to fall victim to Holocaust distortion, but rather to "to join with us to ensure that truthful memory continues to inspire and motivate the world." Minister Bennett spoke of his family connection to the Holocaust and stated that "the universal lesson to be learned is that we must be good, call out against evil and… never single out people because of their race, beliefs or opinions."
Director of the Archives and Fred Hillman Chair for Holocaust Documentation at Yad Vashem Dr. Haim Gertner delivered a lecture on the topic "Jews Rescuing Jews: Stories from Yad Vashem's Archives," which was also broadcast live via Yad Vashem's Facebook page. Dr. Gertner's lecture focused on a collection of rescue stories from the Yad Vashem Archives, which related to the wartime rescue activities of Jewish educators and. Dr. Gertner talked about Aharon Menczer, who devoted his life to youth in Vienna and Theresiensdat; Chava-Eva Warburg, who saved many Jewish children in Germany and Sweden; and Heinz Prossnitz who sent hundreds of life-saving packages to Teresienstadt. "Due to the intensity of murderous Nazi activity, most of the rescue attempts initiated by Jews failed," summed up Dr. Gertner. "And yet… they reflect the human spirit in the shadow of death, and therefore they are so significant to us and to our lives today."
Following the lecture, a panel dialogue on "Jewish Rescue and Solidarity in a Disintegrating World" was held with the participation of two Holocaust survivors – Haim Roet, who was rescued by Jews and non-Jews in the Dutch resistence, and Fanny Ben Ami, who was involved in saving both Jews and non-Jews through her activities with the French resistence, eventually leading 28 Jewish children to safe haven in Switzerland. Both survivors raised the topics of solidarity between Jewish rescuers and non-Jewish rescuers, as well as between victims. Calling her Holocaust story was "a story of resistence," Fanny explained how she felt the tragedy only after the war, when she discovered that her parents had been murdered in the death camps. For Haim, it was important to emphasise that his story teaches how humans can communicate with one another to create a better world.
The gathered diplomats were urged to join Yad Vashem's "IRemember Wall" campaign – part of a new Holocaust Remembrance Project with Facebook Israel. The "IRemember Wall" randomly matches participants with one of the 4,800,000 Jewish men, women and children recorded in Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, which may then be shared via Facebook. This timely and relevant way to commemorate the Holocaust has so far been joined by thousands of people worldwide.
Also marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yad Vashem traveling exhibitions are being shown around the world, including in the United States, Latin America and Europe. The "Beyond Duty" exhibition, prepared by Yad Vashem for Israel's Foreign Ministry, which showcases diplomats who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, is on display in the General Assembly of the United Nations.