WATCH: Israel comes to a stand-still in memory of Holocaust victims
JACK GUEZ (AFP)
Israel came to a complete stand-still at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, as a two-minute siren sounded across the country in memory of the six million Jewish victims of Nazi persecution on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Traffic ground to a halt as people bowed their head in silence on Israel's roads and freeways. Outside shops and offices from north to south, including in the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv, Israelis stood still, many with heads bowed.
The two-minute siren was set kick off a series of ceremonies across the country, including at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and Memorial in Jerusalem where officials will lay wreaths at a monument dedicated to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The Israeli government will hold a special Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony at 11:00 a.m. under the banner “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” in which lawmakers recite names of victims of the Nazis for nearly two hours.
The names of Holocaust victims will be also be recited in a ceremony at Yad Vashem's "Hall of Remembrance".
In Poland, the annual "March of the Living" -- in which thousands of Jews young and old march three kilometers from the main Auschwitz concentration camp to the Birkenau extermination camp which housed the gassing chambers and crematoria -- was set to get underway with some 10,000 participants.
Israel's President Reuven Rivlin was set to lead the 'March of the Living' at Auschwitz. IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot along with the heads of Israel’s Mossad spy agency and Shin Bet security service.
The march was held against the backdrop of political tensions between Israel and Poland, over a law that sets fines and prison terms for implying Warsaw's culpability for crimes committed on its soil during Nazi occupation or reference to Nazi death camps as Polish.
In a speech in on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday, Rivlin cemented that "no country can or should legislate the forgetting of Jews murdered during the Holocaust”, apparently referring to the controversial law.
Holocaust survivors lit six torches at the Wednesday memorial to mark the six million Jews massacred by the Nazis during World War II.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his address at the event to warn that "today, too, there's an extremist regime that's threatening us, threatening the peace of the entire world."
"That regime explicitly declares that it intends on destroying us, the Jewish state," Netanyahu said, referring to arch-foes Iran.
"I have a message to the rulers of Iran -- don't test Israel's resolve." he warned.
Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust during World War II, many of them in gas chambers in Nazi death camps.
The United Nations in 2007 designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day to mark the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps.
Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day separately.
More than 213,000 Holocaust survivors live in Israel today, many of them below the poverty line, according to survivors' groups.
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