Israeli President Shimon Peres recalled Monday how his grandfather told him at the train station in Poland as he left for Israel to “be a Jew.”
Peres was speaking At the “Unto Every Person There is a Name” Ceremony at the Knesset in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Peres recited the names of several family members, including his grandfather, who perished in the Holocaust.
Israel came to a standstill at 10 a.m. Monday morning as residents of the Jewish state offered a moment of silence for the millions murdered during the Holocaust. Sirens sounded as Israelis bowed their heads to mourn. Even traffic froze as drivers stopped to pay their respects on the roads.
The day is one of the most solemn of the year in Israel. The country comes to a virtual standstill and radio and TV programming are dedicated almost exclusively to documentaries about the Holocaust, interviews with survivors and somber music.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked worldwide on Jan. 27, the date of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. Israel’s annual Holocaust memorial day, however, coincides with the Hebrew date of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.
On Sunday, Israel’s highest-ranking soldier and the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, led a delegation of IDF soldiers to the Auschwitz camp in Poland.
“The state of Israel is our insurance that this horror will not happen again and the IDF is the defensive wall of our national homeland, a place of shelter for the entire Jewish people,” Gantz wrote in the guest book.
On Monday Gantz was scheduled to lead the traditional March of the Living along the three-kilometer stretch from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
In Jerusalem on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who returned to the region just two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit as president, laid a wreath at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum beside Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.