The online event welcomed dozens of ambassadors from countries across the globe
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30 January 2022
On 27 January, the UN-sanctioned International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem held its annual symposium for the International Diplomatic Corps serving in Israel. Participating in the event, which due to inclement weather conditions was held online, were Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, Israel's President H.E. Mr. Isaac Herzog, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice H.E. Mr. Gideon Sa'ar, and Director General of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador Alon Ushpiz.
"We must not allow political considerations to mute our moral compass and prevent us from speaking out," warned President Herzog. "We must expose and denounce any attempts to distort, rewrite or forget what happened not so long ago… Let us preserve the legacy of the Holocaust by showing zero tolerance for all forms of antisemitism, racism and extremism, and by taking effective and timely steps to counter them.
"The truth cannot sustain itself – it is our obligation to do so."
"The Holocaust began with hostility, incitement and lies," Minister Saar reminded the audience. "A key lesson of those dark years is the importance of combatting extremism and unchecked hate early on. It is not enough to stand up to certain forms of bigotry and not others. All nations, all people who believe in the sanctity of human life must come together to fight hatred in all forms.
"Promoting Holocaust education must be a priority, and Yad Vashem is leading this effort… We must all join forces to combat traditional and modern forms of antisemitism – whenever and wherever they may appear."
Dayan noted the four pillars of Holocaust remembrance: mourning, knowledge, identification and learning, and called upon all the ambassodors to make sure that the archives in their countries are opened to researchers without limitation or restriction. "The Shoah has many lessons… some are individual, some national, some universal… We are far from Europe of the 1930s, and the difference is that we have the experience that they lacked. We know that if antisemitism is not confronted immediately and decisively, it can grow to monstrous dimensions. It is not only the Jewish people's duty to prevent it – it is upon each one of your governments and populations, too… Otherwise when you say 'never again,' you are just using a shallow cliché.
"Be serious, be substantive, combat antisemitism and anti-Zionism. If we all do that, then 'never again' will become a reality."
Director General Ushpiz recalled the 37 diplomats who have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. "The actions of these people should be a moral compass to all of us," he implored.
"We are what we are today because of the survivors as well as those who perished. We are what we are today because we remember."
The audience then viewed a short video art piece by student Ayelet Ankis of the Holon Institute of Technology, inspired by story of Holocaust survivor Shoshana Rochlis. The portrait Rochlis received for her portion of bread became a symbol of hope for the young Jewish girl caught in the inferno of the Shoah – and decades later she donated it to Yad Vashem for perpetual safekeeping on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem.
In his keynote lecture on the topic "Holocaust Memory in Challenging Times," Yad Vashem Senior Historian Dr. David Silberklang spoke about the challenges facing the current generation in view of the fading survivor population, the growth of Holocaust distortion and politicization, and the move from private to collective commemoration. "It is our obligation to ensure that there is no distortion of the facts of the Holocaust today or in the future; that empathy with the victims is maintained; and that we study the Holocaust in depth and thereby help prevent or at least limit trivialization," Dr. Silberklang concluded.
"Hopefully, collectively we can learn how better to prevent such things from happening again, and thereby help to make a better world. That is our obligation, and that should be the commitment of all of us."
Following the lecture, Curator and Director of Yad Vashem's Artifacts Department Michael Tal presented several items in Yad Vashem's unrivalled Artifacts Collection, including the sweater found on the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by András Brichta, a young Hungarian boy who suffered horrifc experiments on twins; the shoe belonging to two-year-old Hinda Cohen, left behind after she was deported to her death and treasured for decades by her bereaved parents, who carved the date of her deportation in its sole; and the identity tag of Kindertransport survivor Heinz Lichtwitz, now Dr. Henry Foner, author of the moving anthology "Postcards to a Little Boy," who told his touching story of rescue to the dozens of ambassadors in attendance.
"If I can say something to people who can influence what happens in the world in real life, please do your best not to generate new refugees who have to experience what I had to, and others worse," concluded Dr. Foner. "Try to make a world where there will be no need for refugees."
At the end of the event, moderator Yossi Gevir, Senior Advisor to Yad Vashem Chairman and Director of External & Govermental Affairs also at Yad Vashem saluted Dr. Foner and his fellow survivors, and called upon the ambassadors to participate in Yad Vashem's unique annual interactive commemorative activity marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the IRemember Wall, now available in six languages.
Of course, Yad Vashem's sphere of influence reaches far beyond the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. As in years past, Yad Vashem participated in educational and commemorative activities worldwide this International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
▪ Through its international partnerships, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center helped bring Holocaust remembrance to the four corners of the world. Yad Vashem's ready2print exhibtions were displayed in over 60 locations around the world, including for the first time in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country.
▪ Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan offered closing remarks at an event sponsored by B'nai B'rith International together with US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, the VP of the Eurpean Commission and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock.
▪ One of Yad Vashem's main missions has been always to remember the Holocaust and its victims. This includes the public recognition of the brave actions of the men and women who stood up to the evil that swept across Europe, honored as Righteous Among the Nations. This year, Yad Vashem particpated in a new social media campaign together with the Claims Confernce entitled #Don'tBeABystander, encouraging the younger generations to stand up against injustice and hate wherever and whenever they encounter it.
▪ Yad Vashem's experts and activities were featured in major media outlets around the globe including in radio interviews, a Times of Israel podcast and op-ed by Dani Dayan in the New York Daily News. Additionally, Yad Vashem's online exhibition entitled "Remember Your New Name: Surviving the Holocaust Under a False Identity" caught much attention around the globe.