Conflicts & War

Israel turns to technology to honour Holocaust victims

(Update: Changes headline, adds detail throughout)

Jerusalem, Apr 21 (EFE).- Israel remembered victims of the Holocaust on Tuesday with live-streamed events in a bid to bring people together amid a lockdown.

The country marked Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), commemorating the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis.

Ceremonies began at 10 am local time when the sound of sirens filled the air, pedestrians stopped in the street and drivers brought their vehicles to a halt to stand beside them for two minutes silence.

Many Israelis closed their eyes in a moment of reflection and respect as they paid homage to those who were killed in the genocide during World War Two.

One resident, named only as Sabina, said: “This is a tradition in our country. Get up and remember, think of all those who have died.

“It is very important for us to remember. Especially on days like this. Remember all of our dead.”

Holocaust survivor Abraham Roth, 92, probably won’t enjoy many more Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

Perhaps that is why it is so painful for him to endure this day quarantined alone at home with his caregiver and apart from his four children and 11 grandchildren.

“This situation brings back horrible memories of the Holocaust, because at that time for several months I was also isolated and locked up,” he tells Efe as he recalls the time he spent in the ghetto of his native Amsterdam and then at the home of a family who hid and saved him.

Roth is one of the 189,500 Holocaust survivors living in Israel and, with an average age of 84, they are also most at risk from Covid-19.

The first coronavirus death in the country was a World War II survivor and since then the death toll of Holocaust survivors has risen to seven.

The main event in Israel usually sees hundreds of people gather to sing, pray, lay wreaths and light torches at the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

But owing to the closure of the memorial an audiovisual ceremony was streamed after being recorded in the days leading up to the event.

Six survivors lit a torch for every million Jews that were killed by the Nazis and they shared their testimonies.

Another tradition that was forced to adapt was Zikaron Basalon which consists of a series of meetings in homes across the country where survivors share their experiences to families and groups of young people.

The normally social event also turned to technology to offer virtual meetings with speakers as audiences joined the events to sing, pray and joke together over the technological glitches that challenged their tradition but failed to distance them.

On this date, thousands of young people often travel to Poland to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps as part of the educational March of the Living where all Holocaust survivors from around the world gather to walk the three and a half kilometres that separate the two fields.

“It was very difficult for me and it hurts me not to be able to be there, because I have in my veins the obligation to do the utmost for the memory of the deceased,” Baruch Adler, vice president of the march and the son of a survivor, tells Efe.

Instead of the annual trip, a virtual memorial with contributions from all over the world was projected onto the doors of Birkenau, Adler explained.

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