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Yom HaShoah: Remembering the Six Million Who Died in the Holocaust

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”  (Isaiah 40:1)

Today is Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

The Hebrew word shoah means catastrophe or utter destruction.  It refers to the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish People during World War II.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Israel last night at the Holocaust Remembrance Day service at Yad Vashem and called on the Jewish People to live their lives as though they themselves had experienced the Holocaust.

As the sun set last night, all places of public entertainment closed, and Israel began its annual remembrance of the six million lost souls who were sacrificed on the Nazi altar of hate and genocide.

At Yad Vashem—The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem—a special ceremony was held at the “Warsaw Ghetto Square” as the flag was lowered to half-staff and Holocaust survivors lit six torches symbolizing the six million murdered innocents.

“In each generation they rise up to destroy us,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.  “In each generation a person has to see himself as if he survived the Holocaust and established the state.  In each generation we must promise that there will not be another Holocaust,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the Yad Vashem ceremony.

“At this time and place, I make you this promise: There will never again be another Holocaust,” he said.

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A Holocaust survivor lights the torch of remembrance at Yad Vashem.

At 10 a.m., an air of somberness fell across the land as sirens blast the “all clear” signal simultaneously throughout the nation, eerily reminding us of those who perished in the Holocaust.

It also reminds us of the miracle of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 (just a few years after the Holocaust, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy) and the price the nation of Israel has paid for statehood.

“Who has ever heard of such things?  Who has ever seen things like this?  Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?  Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children.”  (Isaiah 66:8)

The siren also speaks of the tentative state of calm in which this country exists—always awaiting the next shocking outbreak of violent attack, as our enemies once again attempt to wipe us from the map and from history.

In fact, only the night before as the nation was mourning the Holocaust at ceremonies throughout Israel, the siren sounded the alarm signal when a Kassam rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.


Children in southern Israel run to the bomb shelters when the air-raid siren sounds.

Yom HaShoah, or more technically—Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laG’vurah (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה)“Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day”—is a national memorial day and public holiday in Israel that commemorates both Jewish people and others who perished in the Holocaust, as well as those Jews who died resisting Nazi terrorism.

It was first established in 1953, when Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi signed it into law.

This solemn day of remembrance usually occurs on the Hebrew calendar day of Nissan 27, unless that day would follow a Sabbath, as it did this year.

The date was chosen to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising where a coordinated, armed Jewish resistance fought the German’s attempt to deport the remaining residents of the ghetto to Nazi concentration camps.

Although this happened on Nissan 14, the eve of Passover (Nissan 15) in 1943, the date was moved ahead to Nissan 27, a week after Passover and a week before Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers).


The Jewish People are rounded up for deportation to Nazi concentration camps after the uprising was crushed by the Germans.

Because Yom HaShoah this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, defiance and rebellion against the Holocaust was a central theme at the Yad Vashem ceremony.

“Much can be learned from the revolution which occurred in the Warsaw ghetto, when the Jews there fought off the might of the German army for nearly 30 days, using mere pistols against tanks… these fighters forever changed the face of the ‘modern Jew’ reminiscent of a chapter in our history defined by valiant fighters called the ‘Maccabim [Hanukkah freedom fighters],” Netanyahu said.

Yom HaShoah is not only being marked by Israeli leaders.  And since today is also the 68th anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by US troops in 1945, some world leaders are remembering their responsibility to resist anti-Semitism by committing to actively fight it.


Those who survived Buchenwald were emaciated, as the camp literally worked its captives to death.  Many died of tuberculosis, starvation and fatigue.

“As we mark the liberation of the first Nazi concentration camp in Buchenwald, Germany, let us also pay tribute to all those brave souls who fought with the Jewish resistance during this dark period, and let us renew our own commitment to continue their fight against all forms of intolerance, discrimination and anti-Semitism,” Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper said.

March 2013, Canada became the Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), committing to raise Holocaust awareness and fight anti-Semitism in Canada and abroad.

“The atrocities of the Holocaust betrayed the fundamental value of human dignity.  We must never allow such unthinkable crimes to be forgotten or repeated,” Harper said.  (Castanet)


A Canadian stamp remembering the Holocaust

Remembering Those Who Perished

While observances for this somber day are not standardized throughout the Jewish world, in Israel there are a variety of events that mark it.

At Yad Vashem and in communities throughout Israel, students offer creative and meaningful performances depicting the suffering of the Holocaust victims.

Those survivors who are still with us share their horrifying accounts of those dark years at schools, military bases, and other community organizations.

On the television are Holocaust documentaries and Holocaust-related talk shows.  Even songs on the radio are discreet and subdued today.  Throughout Israel, the flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff.

At the sound of the sirens, all traffic comes to a halt as people leave their cars and stand at attention.


At the sound of the Yom HaShoah siren, Israelis stop what they are doing to remember the six million who perished in the Holocaust.

As the sirens continued for two minutes, all over the land people stand still, leaving work and study, for a moment of quiet contemplation that unites the nation.

A week later, on Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day), this will be repeated in remembrance of those who have fallen fighting for the survival of the Jewish nation.

Now, however, all thoughts turn to the innocents who suffered and died at the brutal hands of a society once honored for its culture and creativity—a society that chose to turn that ability and talent into a killing machine with one aim and one goal alone, the destruction of all Jewish people.

They were almost successful.  By 1945 two out of three Jews in Europe had been killed by the Nazis.  Europe’s vibrant Jewish communities were shattered.

“The Nazi effort to destroy the Jews is a singular example of one group’s ability to marshal all the forces of propaganda, technology, and organization at its disposal in an attempt to destroy an entire people,” Rabbi Yechiel Ekstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, wrote recently.

“The Holocaust stands alone not just because of its scale and brutality, but because it was meticulously planned and coldly systematic.”

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Israeli youth carry the Israeli flag to a rail car that transported Jewish prisoners to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a Nazi extermination camp in Poland where a staggering 1.3 million people were killed.  About 90 percent of those killed were Jewish.

Living Witnesses and Survivors

Holocaust survivors who can testify to the horrors of the Nazi death camps are aging.

As the few remaining Holocaust survivors pass on, remembrance of the destruction of European Jewry during the years from 1938 to 1945 becomes increasingly important.

The day in the not too distant future will come when there will no longer be any living eye witnesses to this atrocity.

That is one reason why remembering the Holocaust is so important.

Despite the testimony of living survivors, even today, the Holocaust is routinely denied by many, including the Arab nations, particularly Iran.

Even when the Holocaust is not completely denied, it is minimized so that it doesn’t seem so bad.

However, recent research has begun to uncover the true extent of what really happened.


An Israeli Holocaust survivor lights a torch in memory of family who died during the Holocaust.

The Astonishing Scope of Nazi Atrocities

A research project launched by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 13 years ago has been compiling information that reveals the full and previously unknown extent of this mass genocide.  (YNet)

It now appears that the Nazi killing network of ghettos (forced areas of Jewish habitation), forced labor camps, concentration camps and death factories established throughout Europe during the war years was much more extensive than originally thought.

The Memorial Museum’s project has so far cataloged over 42,500 forced ghettos and camps in Europe covering the years between 1933 and 1945.

“Just when we thought we know it all—we don’t,” said American historian Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who won a libel battle in 2000 against British author and Holocaust denier David Irving.  (Jewish Chronicle)


Hungarian Jews are processed at Auschwitz Birkenau after disembarking from the cattle cars that transported them.  Those who were sent to the right were sent into forced labor; those who were sent to the left were sent to the gas chambers.  (May 1944)

The large numbers have shocked even the researchers.

“When we started this research back in 2000, we had an estimate of between 5,000 and 7,000 sites, which I thought was astounding,” said research scholar Dr. Megargee.  “But the actual number proved to be far beyond any estimates.”  (Jewish Chronicle)

As an example of how intense the Nazi effort was, in Berlin alone, 3,000 camps were uncovered and in Hamburg, 1,300.

All told, the study shows that the scale of the atrocities committed against European Jewry was as much as six times greater than previously thought.


Child survivors of Auschwitz: many of those who survived the Holocaust discovered that they were the only ones in their family who did.

It is estimated that at least 20 million Jews and non-Jews went through the system, although not all were murdered.

These facts led one of the project’s research scholars, Dr. Martin Dean, to question the claim by most German citizens of the time that they knew nothing of the Nazis’ efforts to destroy their Jewish neighbors.  (YNet)

Lipstadt agreed.

“It makes it impossible for people to say they didn’t know what was going on,” she said.  (Jewish Chronicle) 

The Nazi system of killing centers and collection points ranged from Germany to Nazi-occupied areas from Norway to North Africa.

Some are sites “nobody knew about at all,” says Dr. Megargee, noting that this is probably because “historians tended to focus on particular camps or particular kinds of camps.”


An Israeli grandmother teaches her grandchildren how to bake cookies.

A Nation of Survivors

Many survivors of the Holocaust came here right after their liberation to help build a country where the Jewish People can be safe and secure.

A large number of the six million Israelis today who celebrate Yom HaShoah are the children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors.  They live with the lingering pain that comes with such a legacy.

At Yad Vashem last night, Netanyahu acknowledged this legacy, and said:

“The Jewish revival is tied to the struggle against those who sought to destroy us.  Our willingness and ability to defend ourselves allowed the establishment of the Zionist enterprise, and guarantees our future existence.

“In the State of Israel live, for the first time, more Jews than were killed in the Holocaust.  This is our victory, our comfort, and our pride.”


Israeli children visit the Knesset Menorah, a bronze monument in front of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament). The sculpture’s engravings are considered a visual “textbook” of Jewish history.

Imagine how hard it is for the vast majority of Jewish people who are not Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) to understand why there is so much hatred against the Jewish People, such as by Hitler or more recently by President Ahmadinejad of Iran and terrorist groups, who try to wipe them out simply because they are Jewish.

There is a spiritual dimension to the attack, of course.  Satan is behind these attempts to destroy God’s Chosen People.  Yes, he hates God’s Chosen People simply because God chose them.

But he also would like to prove God a liar by foiling His end-time plans and promises to the Jewish People.

However, God is sovereign and His plans will come to pass.  We can know that the Jewish People and the Nation of Israel will NEVER be destroyed!

“This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the Lord, ‘will Israel ever cease being a nation before me.’”  (Jeremiah 31:35–36)