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Yom HaShoah

The Origins of the Holocaust Day

At 8 A.M. on Holocaust Memorial Day, air raid sirens will sound throughout the streets of Israel and all normal activity will cease for two minutes as a silent tribute to the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis between l933 -- 1945. That day, a national program will also be held in the courtyard of Yad Vashem, the memorial established by Israel's Parliament, the Knesset, through a special law in 1953 to study and research the Holocaust.

The Holocaust, the annihilation of two-thirds of European Jewry by the Nazis and their collaborators, was a tragedy against the Jews, but is recognized as a crime against all humanity.

The Hebrew word Shoah (translated into English means Holocaust), was used for the first time in l940 to denote the destruction of Jews in Europe in a booklet entitled "Sho'ah Yehuder Polin, The Holocaust of the Jews of Poland”. It contained reports and articles about the persecution of the Jews in Eastern Europe. It was not until 1942 that the word sho'ah began to symbolize the unique situation of the Jewish people among the nations of the world.

By the 1950's, most historians recognized the term Holocaust with a capital “H” to refer to the planned annihilation of the Jewish people under the reign of Adolf Hitler. The word holocaust with a small “h” is derived from the Greek word “holokauston’ and is defined as a sacrifice, totally destroyed by fire. The word Holocaust became the archetype for the new word ‘genocide’, coined to describe the new phenomenon of race murder.

The need to perpetuate the history of the Holocaust and the remembrance of its victims was acknowledged by then President Jimmy Carter and the U.S. Senate and Congress in l979 with the creation of the U.S. Memorial Council and the establishment of the week of Yom HaShoah as the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust.

The Israeli Parliament originally chose the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan as the day to remember the six million because it was on that day in 1943 that the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, learning of the plan to liquidate the Ghetto as a birthday present to Hitler, began their uprisings against the Nazis. This was the first record of any civilian rebellion against the Germans in all of Nazi occupied Europe.

Click to watch a video of the reading of the

Yom HaShoah Megillat