Yom HaShoah: Remembering the Holocaust

Young people dressed in white and blue carry Israeli flags and walk down railroad tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau

March of the Living participants. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

FROM SUNDOWN MONDAY APRIL 17, 2023: An Israeli memorial for the 6 million Jewish deaths during the Holocaust is commemorated worldwide as Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Israel, state-sponsored and synagogue ceremonies, moments of silence and a March of the Living all paint the picture of this solemn observance.

Also known as “Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day” in English, Yom HaShoah has been defined, in recent decades, as having a scope broader than the millions of deaths at the hands of the Nazis and their allies. Today, those who mark this annual observance also remember the Jewish resistance during that era; they celebrate righteous acts in such dangerous times; and they emphasize the meaning of human dignity. (Learn more from the Jewish Virtual Library.)

In Israel, Yom HaShoah is a national memorial day. In 1953, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi signed the proposal for Yom HaShoah, enacting it as law.

Flags are flown at half mast; sirens blare in the evening and the following morning; services are held at military bases, in schools and by various organizations. (Wikipedia has details.) Public entertainment is not permitted on Yom HaShoah, and radio and television programs focus on the day’s memorial.

Yom Hashoah and Hate Crimes today

Each year, one of the major themes associated with Yom HaShoah is the commitment to never forget what happened in this horrific genocide. In the 1970s and ’80s, American public schools that once ignored the Holocaust in standard lesson plans began to include this chapter of history for all students. Holocaust memorials, including the national museum in Washington D.C., opened to millions of visitors.

However, a rising tide of right-wing nationalism around the world has poured fresh fuel on smaller extremist groups that resort to violence. Hate crimes have risen against various minority groups, but especially Jews, according to FBI statistics in the U.S. and reports from other countries.

In the 2023 White House commemoration of Yom Hashoah, President Biden reminds us:

Hate must have no safe harbor in America or anywhere else. Today and always, we make our message clear: Evil will not win. Hate will not prevail. And the violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time. Together, we can ensure that “never again” is a promise we keep.


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