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Holocaust Remembrance Day

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY (Heb. יוֹםהַשּׁוֹאָה; Yom ha-Sho'ah). In a resolution passed by the Knesset (April 12, 1951) the 27th day of Nisan was proclaimed as "Holocaust and Ghetto Uprising Remembrance Day – a day of perpetual remembrance for the House of Israel." This date was chosen because it falls between that of the *Warsaw Ghetto uprising (which began on the first day of Passover) and the Israel War of Independence Remembrance Day (on Iyyar 4), and also because it occurs during the traditional mourning of the Counting of the Omer. The Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Law of *Yad Vashem (1953) determined that one of the tasks of the Yad Vashem Authority is to inculcate in Israel and its people awareness of the day set aside by the Knesset as Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. On March 4, 1959, the Knesset passed the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day Law, which determined that tribute to victims of the Holocaust and ghetto uprising be paid in public observances. An amendment to the law (1961) required that places of entertainment be closed on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Outside Israel, however, Holocaust Remembrance Day is usually celebrated on April 19, the day on which the Warsaw Ghetto uprising broke out according to the civil calendar. The rabbinate in Israel has ruled Tevet 10 as the Day of Kaddish on which persons commemorate the Yahrzeit ("memorial anniversary") of relatives, victims of the Holocaust, whose date of death is unknown, with prayer and study.

In 1979, the President's Commission on the Holocaust, established by President Carter, commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Capitol Rotunda with an unprecedented ceremony attended by the American National leadership including the president, the vice president, and many members of Congress. Since 1979 civic ceremonies have been held in Washington and in individual states and cities, and observances are held in churches. The Jewish community observes Yom ha-Sho'ah as a community in communal commemorations rather than individual synagogue observances. As consciousness of the Holocaust grew in Europe in the 1990s, several European countries adopted an annual Day of Remembrance for the Holocaust. They observed the memorial on the secular calendar, choosing January 27, the date of the Soviet entry into Auschwitz. Aside from Israel, no other country gives significant prominence to Jewish resistance alongside the Holocaust and even within Israel such a dual emphasis has significantly diminished. In 2005 the United Nations, which has not been known for its pro-Israel stance, held its first commemoration of the Holocaust and in November voted for an annual commemoration.


I. Greenberg, The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (1988).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.