TEL AVIV – Israel observed a moment of silence on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday in memory of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.
Shops and restaurants shut down on Wednesday evening to mark the opening of the solemn day. At 10am Thursday, air raid sirens wailed through the country, with traffic and pedestrians coming to a standstill for the two-minute duration.
Schools and army bases held ceremonies marking the day and the Yad Vashem museum had a wreath-laying ceremony honoring the victims on Thursday following a torch-lighting ceremony the previous night. TV and radio stations played solemn songs and broadcast Holocaust-related programming.
Speaking at Yad Vashem’s ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel “will not present its neck for the slaughter in the face of threats of destruction.”
Addressing Holocaust survivors at the ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin said, “Each and every one of you is a miracle, A symbol of life out of death, of hope and faith in life and the eternity of the Jewish people which will forever move us.”
Holocaust Remembrance Day coincided with the release of a study by Tel Aviv University which showed a significant spike in anti-Semitic attacks over the past year.
The total number of physical assaults rose 13 percent in 2018 from the previous year, with more than 400 cases reported around the world.
France saw a 74 percent increase in violent acts motivated by anti-Semitism and Germany a 70 percent increase.
More than a quarter of violent acts – culminating with the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October that claimed the lives of 11 Jews – occured in the U.S.
“Anti-Semitism is no longer an issue confined to the activity of the far-left, far-right and radical Islamists triangle – it has mainstreamed and became an integral part of life,” the report said.
Separately, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual report on anti-Semitism in the U.S., and noted that the number of physical assaults in 2018 had nearly tripled from the previous year, but the number of anti-Semitic incidents overall had decreased.
A third study released on Holocaust Remembrance Day showed that the majority of Austrians (56%) have no idea how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, with 30% believing the number to be less than a million.
The study, conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), also showed that 50% did not know who Austrian-born Adolf Eichmann was and 42% were unaware of the existence of Mauthausen, one of the most brutal Nazi concentration camps, located in Austria.