Israel is marking Holocaust Remembrance Day on Monday with ceremonies and events throughout the country and around the world.
At 10 am Israel came to a standstill for two mournful minutes as sirens pierced the air to remember the 6 million Jews systematically murdered by German Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust in WWII.
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Israelis stopped what they were doing and stood in silence as sirens wailed nationwide. People stood with heads bowed in reflection. Traffic froze as drivers stopped their cars and stepped outside in respect for the solemn day.
Israelis in moment of Silence (Photo: Yaron Brener)
The moments of silence were followed by an official memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem's monument for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
President Shimon Peres , Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Supreme Court President Asher Grunis are among the dignitaries present at the main memorial ceremony.
At 11 am the Knesset will hold its annual "Every person has a name,' ceremony during which the names of Holocaust victims are read out by Knesset Members.
In Poland, the March of the Living will kick off at 2:30 pm and three hours later a ceremony will be held at the Birkenau death camp. IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz will lead the march.
The Remembrance Day ceremonies will come to a close with a ceremony at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters' Kibbutz) at 7:45 pm.
Holocaust survivors attend ceremonies (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
"The Holocaust will not sink in history's gaping hole. It is here with us, blazing and real. It echoes as we step on the ghettos' stone floors," President Shimon Peres said at a ceremony on the eve of the Holocaust Remembrance Day. Six torches were lit during the ceremony at Yad Vashem.
Peres said, "The Holocaust does not permit us as a Jewish people to shut our eyes and must serve as a constant warning sign to all of humanity. The map of Europe still contains anti-Semitic stains. To our shame there are still those who have learned nothing.
"There are still Holocaust deniers. Crises are again being exploited to establish ridiculous but dangerous Nazi parties. Sickening anti-Semitic cartoons are still being published. The quest for justice and freedom has not ended."
The president continued, "The enlightened world must ask itself how is it that so soon after the crematoriums' fire was extinguished, after the terrible cost the Allied Forces paid to subdue the Nazi devil, there can still be an Iranian leadership that denies the Holocaust and threatens a with another Holocaust.
"Whoever ignores a threat of Holocaust directed at one people must know that such a threat at another is the same as a threat against all peoples."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also spoke at the ceremony. "Lately we have witnessed shocking manifestations of violence against the elderly, including Holocaust survivors. There is nothing that contradicts the Jewish heritage and basic human morals more. We shall not tolerate it."
He further added, "Holocaust survivors are the symbol of revival. They deserve to live the rest of their days in peace, security and dignity. "
Addressing the Iranian threat, he said: "There are those who wish to extinguish our light. Iran openly declares its intent to destroy Israel and is pursuing all means to achieve that goal." Netanyahu quoted Iranian clerics as saying that "Zionists are microbes and bacteria. The Jews are filthy people who spread disease."
"It was not said only then, it is being said today. Iran's ruler today says that 'Israel is a cancerous tumor that must be removed from the Middle East.' The murderous hatred that follows our people's history has not vanished but replaced by a hatred against the Jewish state. What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and ability to defend ourselves."
"We appreciate the international community's efforts to stop Iran's nuclear program but at no point will we place our fate in the hands of others, not even in the hands of our greatest friends."
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked worldwide on Jan. 27, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Israel's annual Holocaust memorial day coincides with the Hebrew date of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
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