Israelis stand still next to their cars as a siren sounds in memory of victims of the Holocaust, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, April 24, 2017. Israel has come to a standstill as people stopped in their tracks for a two-minute siren that wailed across the country in remembrance of the Holocaust’s 6 million Jewish victims. (AP Photo/ Sebastian Scheiner)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel came to a standstill on Monday as people stopped in their tracks for a two-minute siren that wailed across the country in remembrance of the Holocaust’s 6 million Jewish victims.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, President Reuven Rivlin, second left, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, second right, and his wife, Eveline Steinberger-Kern, stand during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

The ritual is the centerpiece of Israel’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day for those who were systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. Pedestrians stood in place, buses stopped on busy streets and cars pulled over on major highways — their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed.

In homes and businesses, people stopped what they were doing to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide, in which a third of world Jewry was annihilated.

 

Israeli soldiers stand guard during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

 

A wreath laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial followed, with Israeli leaders and Holocaust survivors in attendance. A public reading of names also took place in Israel’s parliament, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders recited names of relatives who were killed. Other ceremonies, prayers and musical performances took place in schools, community centers and army bases around the country.

Holocaust survivor Larisa Feigin, 91, stands still during a two-minute siren in memory of victims of the Holocaust, at her apartment in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. Feigin escaped from Belarus on 1941 and walked for two and a half month to Russia and emigrated to Israel on 1990. Israel is holding its annual Holocaust remembrance day in memory of the 6 million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

 

The annual remembrance is one of the most solemn days on Israel’s calendar. Restaurants, cafes and places of entertainment shut down, and radio and TV programs are dedicated almost exclusively to documentaries about the Holocaust, interviews with survivors and somber music. The Israeli flag flew at half-staff.

Israel was established in 1948, just three years after the end of the war, and hundreds of thousands of survivors fled there. Some 160,000 elderly survivors remain, with a similar number worldwide. With the passing years, and the dwindling in numbers of survivors, greater emphasis has been put on commemorating their individual stories.

 

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern lays a wreath during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

 

The central theme of this year’s commemorations at Yad Vashem is “Restoring Their Identities: The Fate of the Individual During the Holocaust.”

The Holocaust memorial called on the public to share testimony and provide more names of those who perished. To date, Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims’ Names Project has collected over 4,700,000 names of the victims.

“It is a race against the clock to collect as many names of those murdered during the Holocaust before there are no more survivors left,” said Alexander Avram, the director of Vad Vashem’s Hall of Names.

 

World War II veterans lay a wreath during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

 

At the opening ceremony on Sunday night, Netanyahu spoke about what he said was the world’s indifference to the genocide of the Jews in World War II and how Israel is the guarantee the Jewish people will never be that weak again.

“The lesson is that we must be able to defend ourselves by ourselves, against every threat, against every enemy,” he said.

President Reuven Rivlin took a different approach. He said although the Holocaust is “permanently branded in our flesh” it “is not the lens through which we should examine our past and our future.”

 

People walk past Auschwitz train wagon during a remembrance day in Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. Israel is marking its annual Holocaust remembrance day in memory of the 6 million Jews systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)

 

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin lays a wreath during a ceremony marking the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, Monday, April 24, 2017. (Amir Cohen/Pool Photo via AP)

 


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