Former chief rabbi: Ahmadinejad should visit Yad Vashem
Sirens wail as Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day; Peres, Barak honor relatives who perished.
Israel's former chief rabbi, Yisrael Lau, on Tuesday invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to come and visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to see for himself proof of the Nazi's deliberate murder of six million Jews.
"Under the international umbrella of the United Nations, the president of Iran appeared dripping with hatred toward the Jewish people," Lau told delegates to the March of the Living, during the event's closing ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birekenau death camp in Poland.
The former chief rabbi was speaking in reference to Ahmadinejad's speech condemning Israel at the Durban II racism conference, in which he accused the West of using the Holocaust as a pretext for aggression against Palestinians.
"Come to Yad Vashem, we'll show you all of the archives documents and memoirs. We will present you with all the evidence until you are convinced that the Holocaust actually happened," said Lau, a Holocaust survivor and director of the Jerusalem meuseum.
The former chief rabbi accused Ahmadinejad and other deniers of "not wanting to know the truth.... This is why they disseminate their lies."
Up to 7,000 people, most of them Jews from across world, took part in the annual march from Auschwitz to the crematoria of Birkenau in southern Poland on Tuesday to pay tribute to the millions of Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War Two.
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, also speaking at the former Nazi death camp prior to the closing ceremony, called Ahmadinejad's speech "shameful" and warned that Iran was doing everything it could to destroy Israel.
"Iran is trying to do everything they can in order to wipe Israel off the map and at the same time to undermine the moderate Arab Muslim regimes in the Middle East," Shalom said, at the site on Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Ahmadinejad on Monday accused Israel of being a most cruel and repressive racist regime in his speech at the conference in Geneva.
President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, read out the names of relatives killed in the Holocaust at a Knesset ceremony on Tuesday in remembrance of the six million Jews who perished in the Nazi Holocaust.
"[They] were slaughtered, along with 2,060 members of their community in the town of Wiszniewo in August 1942, by the Nazis and their local accomplices, who gathered the residents of the ghetto in a synagogue that was made of wood and brutally murdered them with gunshots and fire," said Peres.
"My grandfather, who walked at the head of the community wrapped in a tallit [prayer shawl], straight to the synagogue that was set alight by the Nazis. My grandmother, Rebecca Meltzer; my grandfather, Tzvi "Herschel" Meltzer; my teacher and rabbi who during our separation at the train station, upon my immigration to the Land of Israel, told me [these] words: Be a Jew."
At 10 A.M., the whole country came to a standstill for two mournful minutes on Tuesday as air-raid sirens pierced the air to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Cars came to a halt and people froze in their tracks, many with heads bowed, in memory of the victims. An official wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial followed. In deference to the solemnity of the day, restaurants, bars and places of entertainment were closed.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi attended the event Yad Vashem event, which was titled "every one has a name."
The Holocaust Remembrance Day service then moved to the Knesset. The main Holocaust memorial service was to be held at Yad Vashem at 1 P.M.
Israeli leaders Monday vowed that there would not be a second Holocaust, their pledges ringing in the shadow of a United Nations conference against racism in Geneva perceived as anti-Semitic.
At the official opening ceremony at Yad Vashem on Monday evening, Netanyahu said Holocaust deniers would not be permitted to repeat a genocide against Jews. He also criticized the president of Switzerland for meeting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday.
Israel boycotted the conference, along with the U.S. and eight other countries.
Holocaust Remembrance Day events