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Archive for Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Israel comes to standstill to remember Holocaust

April 10, 2002

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When the siren sounded at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Israel stopped, and for two minutes it remembered.

Pedestrians froze in place and stood at attention. Motorists stopped their cars, opened their doors and stood in the street at attention. Office workers put down telephones and stood beside their desks at attention.

Tuesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, an annual day of grief and reflection, and this year it had a special, terrible new resonance.

More than a few Israelis survived the Holocaust only to die in recent weeks inside their homeland, their refuge at the hands of suicide bombers and other terrorists.

At least three Holocaust survivors perished in the Passover massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya two weeks ago.

Marianne Lehmann Zaoui fled Germany just ahead of the Nazis and, pretending to be a Christian, found shelter in France. Ten years ago, she and her husband immigrated to Israel. She was killed in the Passover bombing.

Zaoui was 77. She had a husband, three children and seven grandchildren.

"I feel very bad knowing that she went through the hardest time for the Jews in history, and here, in the country where she should have been living in peace, she has gone without having any ability to defend herself," said her daughter, Debby Stein.

Stein and her husband and their two children were in the hotel that night. Her son, Daniel, 9, sustained minor burns. He and his sister, Eden, 7, are seeing psychologists.

"I have a feeling that I have gone through a new Holocaust," Stein said.

Most Israelis and other Jewish people do not refer to new Holocausts lightly, acknowledging that little can match the horror of 6 million deaths.

But these days, in Israel, comparisons are being made more often.

March of the Living

Tuesday in Poland, about 2,000 youths retraced the steps of Auschwitz victims at the site of the former Nazi death camp.

Shielded by heavy security for fear of attacks motivated by the violence in the Middle East, marchers said the gas chambers are a reminder of continuing threats to Jews.

The trek from the death camp near Oswiecim to its gas chambers two miles away at Birkenau began with a mournful tone from a shofar, the traditional Jewish ram's horn.

The March of the Living is an annual event. Many of the marchers carry wooden tablets with the names of their relatives who died at Auschwitz. They place them around the Birkenau railway tracks on which cattle wagons packed with deportees rolled into the camp from all over Europe, bringing them to be gassed.

The Nazis killed more than 1 million people at Birkenau during World War II.

Still no peace

Many Jews have been alarmed by the numerous anti-Semitic attacks in France recently, an apparent reaction to the Israeli offensive against Palestinians to crack down on militants held responsible for attacks on Israeli citizens. France has a large Muslim population.

In Ukraine, about 800 Jewish community leaders, Ukrainian lawmakers and Holocaust survivors expressed support for Israel during a commemoration in the capital, Kiev.

"Today is a day of the Jewish people's catastrophe and heroism in World War II," said Kiev's chief rabbi, Moshe-Reuven Azman. "Today we are in a situation where evil forces refuse to let Jews and world nations live in peace."

The memorial service took place at Babi Yar, the place in Kiev where Nazi forces executed more than 100,000 Jews and others.

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