Israel marks Yom Hashoah
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Israel marks Yom Hashoah

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel began Holocaust Memorial Day with a national ceremony at Yad Vashem.

The annual state ceremony began after sundown Monday, and marks the beginning of a 24-hour commemoration of the Holocaust and memorial to the 6 million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis.

The theme of this year’s commemoration is "Children in the Holocaust." During the annual "Unto Every Person There is a Name" ceremony at the Knesset, the names of children murdered in the Holocaust will be read out loud.  About 1.5 million of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust were children.

Monday night’s annual state ceremony was broadcast live on Israeli television and radio stations.

"We will not let the Holocaust deniers perpetrate another holocaust on the Jewish people," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation during his address at the ceremony. "This is the first responsibility of the State of Israel and of me as prime minister."

In his address to the ceremony, President Shimon Peres said the legacy of Nazism remains.

"The State of Israel is our historic victory over the Nazi beast that left no stone in Europe unturned," he said. "Soul searching about the Holocaust is not yet over, and may never be over — not for us, and not for the world at large. Nazism was defeated, but anti-Semitism is still alive and well. The gas has dissipated, but the poison remains. There are still Holocaust deniers and hot-headed skinheads in the world, those who bear the sort of visceral hatred that leads to racist murder. 

"The conference opening today in Geneva constitutes an acceptance of racism rather than the fight against it, and its main speaker is Ahmadinejad, who calls for the annihilation of Israel and denies the Holocaust."

Peres also alluded to Israel’s military strength, saying that "A people which lost a third of its members, a third of its children to the Holocaust, does not forget, and must not be caught off guard."

A two-minute siren will sound throughout Israel at 10 a.m. Tuesday, during which all Israelis will stop and stand at attention. The siren will mark the start of ceremonies commemorating the Holocaust throughout Israel.