Holocaust Remembrance Day is dedicated to honoring the memory of the Holocaust inflicted on the Jewish people by the Nazis and their accomplices and to acts of heroism and defiance against the German forces. This year's focus is "1944: From Extermination to Liberation" – the Jews' situation exactly 70 years ago.
Yad Vashem Chief Historian, Prof. Dina Porat, notes that in March 1944, Germany invaded Hungary and immediately started to prepare for one of the most organized and rapid transfer any Jewish community has ever known. From mid-May that year, more than 430,000 Jews were deported from Hungary, almost all of them to Auschwitz. Most of them were murdered there within two months.
The only ray of light during those dark days was the beginning of the return of the remaining deported Jews from Transnistria, a strip of land in South Ukraine, back to their homes.
At the same time, Zionist youth, other Jewish activists and diplomats from neutral countries started to accelerate rescue operations in Budapest, managing to save over 100,000 Hungarian Jews.
However, in June, the Jews of the Greek Island Corfu were captured and transferred to death camps and in July, the Germans destroyed and evacuated the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, deporting most of the remaining Jews to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
The Holocaust Remembrance Day opening ceremony will take place Sunday at 8 pm at theWarsaw Ghetto Square in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. The ceremony will be broadcast live and President Shimom Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in attendance.
On Monday morning, a two-minute siren will be sounded at 10 am, and immediately after that, a wreath-laying ceremony will commence at the Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem. At 10:30 am the reading names of the Holocaust victims will begin. It will be followed by the main remembrance ceremony at Ohel Yizkor at 1 pm.
Tel Aviv will hold a remembrance ceremony at the Cameri Theater, titled "1944 – Jews t the Finish Line, From Extermination to Liberation". The ceremony will be screened live via a wide screen at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
A 'Singing and Remembering' event will take place at 9 pm on Sunday at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem and at 08 am Monday, the ceremony "1944 – On the Brink of Liberation" will take place at Safra Square in the capital.
The main Remebrance Rally to mark the end of the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations will be held on Monday at 7:30 pm at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai in the presence of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Opposition leader Isaac Herzog, IDF senior commanders and Hungary's ambassador to Israel.
In schools around the country Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies will be held on Monday morning, and teachers will hold discussions on the subject in their home classrooms.
Tali Toledano, Headmaster of Kaplan School in Petach Tikva, said that a mother of one of the students whose parents survived the Holocaust will participate in the ceremony.
"I keep thinking how to convey this dreadful period to the student in the best possible way. When the children see that the entire school staff and the parents are so dedicated to the ceremony they understand that this is an important subject that needs attention and comprehension," said Toledano.
Apart from the ceremony, the school will operate a study center containing photos and books about the Holocaust. "To each grade we adapt different creative assignments including reading and writing," explained Toledano.
"At first, the room dedicated to the Holocaust was painted black, but over the years we softened it and hung pictures and posters on the wall to make it less stressful and depressing and give an authentic sense of the period," added the headmaster.