Today marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
27 January was selected by the United Nations in 2005 as the day to memorialize the worst genocide in human history, as it is the anniversary of the 1945 liberation that the most atrocious Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and European Council President Charles Michel issued a joint video statement in which they said: “76 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the greatest symbol of Nazi evil, we stand united in our shared commitment to preserving the memory of the Holocaust and fighting anti-Semitism. We pay tribute to the survivors. Their testimonies will forever stand as a wall against those who would deny the past. We will work together to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust and the sacred vow of ‘Never Again’ are passed down to our children, our children’s children and all future generations.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a video statement ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in which he noted that his nation’s population has surpassed the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
Nevertheless, he warned that there are still “annihilate the State of Israel and says so openly, on a daily basis – and this is, of course, the Iranian regime.”
“They mean to try to annihilate us by means of developing nuclear weapons, among others. They are inflaming the new anti-Semitism – in a contradictory wave to that which we are doing together with the Arab world, or at least a part of it – which has already altered their attitude toward the Jewish Nation, to Jews in general and the state of Israel in particular,” he said.
Iran has “inflamed poisonous anti-Semitism in every form with the goal of annihilating us and to kill millions others,” charged the Israeli leader, adding that, “This, of course, includes their strange allies in Europe who are often anti-Muslim but have assumed an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic approach.”
“Therefore,” Netanyahu stressed, “When we talk about the victims of the Holocaust, we are not only remembering them but are also refocusing on the primary lesson which we learned from the Holocaust: When anyone voices their intention to annihilate you, take him seriously and prepare to thwart his capacity to do so. This is what we are doing around the clock, and this is the first and most important goal of the State of Israel.”
“’Never again’ is not just a password. This is our policy, this is our mission and this is our mission. We will stand in them, and promise with the help of God the eternity of Israel,” concluded the Premier.
Despite the temporary closure of the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center is actively marking the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust through a range of online events and activities.
“76 years later, the history and stories from the Holocaust are more relevant than ever,” remarked Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev in a written statement, underscoring that, “Today, as the world continues to battle expressions of hatred, antisemitism and xenophobia, the significance and meanings of the Holocaust are particularly relevant.”
Shalev today participated in Yad Vashem’s annual symposium for the International Diplomatic Corps serving in Israel, which is being held online this year due to the current lockdown in Israel. Key speakers include Israeli President Rivlin. Yad Vashem Senior Historian Dr. David Silberklang presented a lecture, entitled “The Path from Mass Shootings to the Final Solution,” relating to the central theme of Israel’s own Holocaust Remembrance Day observance on 8 April 2021.
Yad Vashem also created a mini-site marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring a variety of resources the public can view, share and engage in, including online exhibitions and educational resources.
Individuals are also invited to participate in a campaign on Facebook in which they can post photos of themselves holding signs reading: #IRemember. The public can also remember the names and stories of victims, to ensure the memory of each of the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust is never forgotten, by participating on Yad Vashem’s unique and meaningful IRemember Wall .
The first-ever an online virtual guided tour of the permanent exhibition “Shoah” (meaning “Holocaust” in Hebrew) of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is also being offered for the first time ever. Visitors are taken through the Jewish Pavilion known as Block 27 at Auschwitz I, while also being presented with central themes of the Holocaust, insight into pre-war Jewish life, the experience of children at the time and viewing of the monumental Book of Names.
A new online Yad Vashem online exhibition called “My Lost Childhood” is available, featuring seven children’s homes that were founded after WWII. The voices of survivor testimony, presentation of artifacts, photographs and documents from Yad Vashem’s unrivalled collections the terrifying ordeals suffered by children have been brought to life; as well as the details of how they were gently assisted – often by survivors themselves – to re-enter normative society.
Members of Yad Vashem’s senior staff, historians and educators participated in various events and ceremonies around the world marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Ready2Print exhibition is on display in dozens of community centers and institutions around the world – including locations in Spain, Germany, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres made the impassioned appeal for urgent action against neo-Nazis in his Holocaust remembrance message.
“As this year’s anniversary is taking place under the shadow of the pandemic, he noted that the crisis has exposed longstanding injustices and contributed to a renewed rise in antisemitism and xenophobia,” reported the UN News website.
“Today, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are resurgent, organizing and recruiting across borders, intensifying their efforts to deny, distort and rewrite history including the Holocaust,” said the UN chief, adding that, “The COVID-19 pandemic has given them new opportunities to target minorities, based on religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, disability and immigration status. We must make urgent joint efforts to stop them.”
“When the truth is just one version among many, lying becomes normalized and history can be distorted and rewritten”, he said, referring to Holocaust denial,” said the top UN official in earlier remarks at a ceremony in New York to mark the liberation of Auschwitz, cautioning that, “As the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes every year, we must make ever greater efforts to elevate the truth and ensure that it lives on.”
Secretary General Guterres underscored that, “There is no vaccine for antisemitism and xenophobia. But our best weapon remains the truth.”
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet also voiced concern over the “frightening” increase in hate crimes, and “sharp rise” in antisemitism online, over the past year.
“With renewed vigor, conspiracy theorists increasingly link extreme political ideologies and anti-Semitic delusions – weaving elaborate lies and falsehoods that lay responsibility for every kind of government failing on individual Jews or the Jewish community as a whole,” she said, underscoring that, “Whipped up by irresponsible opinion-leaders – and amplified and legitimized by the uniquely powerful engines of digital media – these hate-filled fabrications are deeply damaging in themselves and can pose a real threat of violence.”
Ms. Bachelet urged governments and digital platforms to evaluate their role in enabling such phenomena. “We need to push back against lies. We need to ensure that public discourse is based on facts, which objectively reflect truth – including the fundamental truth of our equal rights and dignity as human beings,” the UN Human Rights Chief stressed, through investment in education “to counter discrimination and groundless, toxic conspiracy theories.”
UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir urged people everywhere to speak out against discrimination.
“We are witnessing hatred towards other minorities and religious groups. Today, the onus is upon us to uphold truth, equality and protect the rights of the most vulnerable groups. All around the world,” he said in a video message. “We have to be vigilant, to call out any injustice we witness and defend pluralism. We have to condemn intolerance, incitement, harassment based on ethnic origin or religious belief,” he emphasized.
Special UN events taking place today include an online panel discussion on Holocaust distortion and denial. The Commemorative Program will begin with a virtual ceremony at which German Chancellor Angela Merkel will deliver the keynote address.
As tributes to the memories of murdered Jews during World War II are being held worldwide, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has, however, doubled down on its anti-Semitic views. According to the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) NGO, the Holocaust was referred to in a 23 January 2021 program broadcast on official PA TV as “the price the Jews paid for their evil behavior – their “conspiracies and wickedness.”
PMW, which has documented PA anti-Semitism for years, reports that PA President Mahmoud Abbas previously sought to justify hatred of Jews “not due to their religion, but, rather… due to their social role that was connected to usury and banks and so forth.” Moreover, Abbas’ Fatah Movement has also produced and published a propaganda video purportedly about Jewish history in Europe making the same claim that Jews are responsible for bringing anti-Semitism on themselves by presenting the Jewish People as “an evil” that prompted the Holocaust by forcing Europeans “to defend themselves” against Jewish “racism and their filthy behavior.” Abbas’ own personal advisor on Islam, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, has taught that the Palestinian conflict with Israel is essentially Islam’s historic conflict against Jews because they are Satan’s ally, spreading evil and falsehood. Israel, because it is a Jewish state, is “Satan’s project.”
“At times, the PA has explicitly promoted the horrific conclusion: The Jewish threat to humanity will be stopped only by exterminating all Jews. One preacher on official PA TV explained it: ‘These malignant [Jewish] genes and cursed characteristics continue in them. They transfer them from generation to generation. They inherit it from father to son…. Humanity will never be able to live together with them…. Our prophet [Muhammad] informed us [that] at the end of time the Muslims will fight the Jews…. Jews hide behind a stone or a tree, and the stone or a tree will say: ‘Muslim, servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him’…. Allah… count them and kill them one by one, and do not leave even one.’ According to an ADL Global 100 poll, 87% of Palestinians believe ’People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.’ The poll also found that Palestinians are the most anti-Semitic population in the world,” the PMW reported.
— By Erin Viner