Bulgaria’s Jewish community joined in marking Yom HaShoah 2016, commemorating the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, while also recalling Bulgaria’s prevention of the deportation of Bulgarian Jews to Nazi death camps and mourning the fate of more than 11 000 Jews sent from parts of northern Greece and Yugoslavia to Treblinka.
Yom HaShoah is marked on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nisan, this year having begun at nightfall on May 4 and continuing into May 5.
Traditionally, prayers for the dead are said at synagogues, and six candles lit, each symbolising a million of the dead in the Holocaust. Commemorations also include reading the names of some of the dead.
In Israel, the European Union delegation in Israel marked YomHashoah with a statement that the EU stands strong against anti-Semitism, prejudice and racial discrimination.
“We can not and will not accept that Jewish communities in Europe do not feel safe,” the statement said, as reported by the European Jewish Press.
” The EU Delegation to the State of Israel, together with all embassies of EU member states in Israel, joins people in Israel commemorating today the deaths of six million Jews – innocent men, women and children, murdered simply for being Jewish.”
The statement continued, ” Remembering the Shoah means for us recalling our joint responsibility for the future, continuing to stand strong against anti-Semitism, prejudice and racial discrimination in all their forms. It is our duty to fight against anti-Semitism on every front.”
” The European Union was built on the foundations of our values of democracy, human dignity and fundamental rights. We are determined to defend these values against hate, violence and fanaticism. Never forget. Never again. ”
Yom HaShoah, or by its full name Yom HaShoah Ve-Hagevurah, is the Hebrew name for Holocaust (Shoah) Memorial Day, literally translated as “Day of the Holocaust and the Heroism”.
Yom HaShoah is different to Holocaust Memorial Day, which was held on January 27 this year to mark the date of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi concentration camps.
Yom HaShoah is held one week after the end of Pesach (Passover) and one week before Yom Hazikaron, the memorial day for Israel’s fallen soldiers.
In Poland, the annual March of the Living, brings Jewish people from all over the world for Yom HaShoah to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp built during the Second World War.
“I have one mission: One Yad Vashem is enough. One time. There will be no second time,” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told the six Holocaust survivors who will light the memorial torches at Yad Vashem, the EJP reported.
He went on to say that “the hatred of Jews has not disappeared in 70 years, and it is now directed at the Jewish state. But the state is very, very strong – and its strength is your strength.”
This past week, the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, in co-operation with the European Jewish Congress, released its Annual Report on Anti-Semitism for 2015.
The number of violent anti-Semitic incidents worldwide decreased quite dramatically during 2015, especially after the first months of the year, in comparison to 2014, the report shows.
During 2015, 410 violent cases were recorded, compared to 766 in 2014, a decrease of approximately 46 per cent.
Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, said that among the reasons for the decrease was the massive amount of security around Jewish institutions after the January attacks in Paris.
This was proven by the fact that around Jewish sites like cemeteries and memorials which are less well-guarded there was no reduction in anti-Semitic incidents, and in countries in Central Europe and Scandinavia where there was little increase in security the number of incidents did not markedly decrease.
A media statement said on the report said that the feeling with which the year 2015 ended was one of fear and concern, among Jews and non-Jews alike, especially in Europe.
“Waves of immigrants and refugees shook the continent, terror took a terrible toll in human lives and brought up new thoughts on how democracies would be able to better defend themselves and their citizens.
“The Jewish communities and Jews as individuals feel threatened by both Muslim citizens undergoing an increasing process of radicalization in Europe, and the influx of refugees and immigrants some of whom might bring in more terror, and the increase in the right-wing parties’ electoral power that has been strengthened as a result of such concerns.
“In addition, accusations have already been leveled against the Jewish communities and Israel as responsible for the present wave and the former ones, in order to empty the Middle East and to incite the Western world and the Muslims one against the other,” the statement said.
Recent developments brought down the number of violent anti-Semitic cases perpetrated against Jews and Jewish sites but the violent cases turned more cruel and murderous, in numbers unknown before; direct threats to gun down Jews escalated; the increasing flow of verbal and visual anti-Semitic expressions, mainly on social media, turned more threatening and insulting, while the legal struggle is in its beginning stages, the media statement said.
“Many Jews share the estimation that more terrorist attacks are only a matter of time. The influx of newcomers, mostly from countries with an antisemitic tradition and with political and cultural anti-Israeli ideologies, adds to the re-consideration of Jewish life on the continent.
“The debate within the Jewish communities regarding wearing identifying signs in public, is part of this re-consideration. The increasing use of antisemitic language against Israel as a Jewish state infiltrates into the mainstream. The BDS movements that aggressively try to undermine its very existence, turn against Jewish students, and has close ties with so-called liberal circles. All these put the Jews between the anvil and the hammer,” the statement said.