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Israel fell silent as a two-minute siren wailed across the country yesterday morning in commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day. The siren followed memorials at the Knesset and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.

Holocaust victims' names were read aloud at ceremonies held at both locations.

At the Knesset, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert read the names of the members of the Richter family, relatives of his wife Aliza, who were killed in the Holocaust and opposition chair Benjamin Netanyahu read the names of his wife Sara's relatives.

Vice Premier Shimon Peres spoke of parting from his grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Melzer, at the railway station.

Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog told of his father's cousin who was caught trying to cross the French border and was sent to her death in Auschwitz.

The ceremonies began after Israelis stood silently for two minutes to remember the victims of the Holocaust on yesterday morning.

Pedestrians froze in their tracks, buses stopped on busy streets, and cars on highways pulled over as the country paused to pay respect to the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.

All day, television stations devoted their broadcasts to historical documentaries and movies, and radio stations played somber music.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Knesset yesterday to protest the Holocaust survivors' financial distress.The demonstration was organized by the Tafnit Movement.

More than 17,000 people visited Yad Vashem yesterday.