Edited by: Fern Sidman
Security and traffic preparations have been finalized for the arrival in Israel at midweek of over four dozen heads of state and government who are expected in the Jewish State to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland from the Nazis, as was reported by World Israel News.
Thousands of Israel Police, Border Police, and volunteers are slated to be mobilized to ensure that the delegations landing in Israel mostly on Wednesday will move smoothly and securely from Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, to Jerusalem.
WIN reported that some delegations have arrived earlier in the week and some will arrive on the day of the main event which is on Thursday. Notable arrivals on that day will include Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, together with a bipartisan Congressional representation.
The Jerusalem Post reported that international delegations and leaders began arriving early on Tuesday, with the presidents of 10 different countries landing in Ben-Gurion Airport, among other leaders.
Many more are expected to arrive on Wednesday, including two kings, a Grand Duke and two crown princes, according to the JPost report.
Israel National News has reported that the race for hotel rooms in Jerusalem has been frenetic and the prestigious hotels have mainly been booked on a “first come first served” basis with a few exceptions.
The King David Hotel lobby is bedecked with the flags of many nations, according to INN. A nation not sending its top leader is Poland. This is partly due to a disagreement with Israel over the Polish refusal to admit that many Poles not only assisted the Germans but killed Jews and took their properties in the aftermath of the war.
Having dominated the headlines as of late due to the decision of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, (the Duchess of Sussex) to sever themselves from their duties as senior royals in the House of Windsor, the British royal family will be represented in Jerusalem by Prince Charles, who is the heir to the throne.
The official events of the 5th World Holocaust Forum are scheduled to begin on Wednesday night, with a dinner at the official residence of Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin. JPost reported that the dinner at the President Rivlin’s residence will feature a film consisting of statements made against antisemitism by leaders of countries with delegations attending the Forum.
The Israeli government press office reported that President Rivlin will conduct bilateral talks beginning early on Wednesday with such world leaders as the UK’s Prince of Wales, French President Emannuel Macron, His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain, His Majesty King Phillipe of the Belgians, the president of Italy, President Stevo Pendarovsk of North Macedonia, President Ilir Meta of Albania, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland, President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus, and President Frank Walter Steinmeier of Germany.
Other leaders in attendance include:
- President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa
- President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev
- President of Romania Klaus Iohannis
- President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová
- Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Andrej Babiš
- President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian
- President of Georgia Salome Zourabichvili
- Speaker of the Latvian Parliament Ināra Mūrniece
- President of Moldova Igor Dodon
- Minister of State of Monaco Serge Telle
- Chairman of the House of Representatives of Belarus
- President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović
- President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić
- President of Hungary János Áder
- President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos
- Prime Minister of Sweden Stefan Löfven
- President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
- President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zolenskyy
- President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Željko Komšić
- Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg
- President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović
- President of the European Council Charles Michel
- President of the European Parliament David Sassoli
- Vatican Representative Kurt Koch
The JPost reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video message as dignitaries began to arrive in Israel, saying: “I welcome the leaders from around the world who are coming here, to Jerusalem, to mark with us 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp. It is important that they remember where we came from, and it is important that they see what we have achieved,” Netanyahu stated.
Among those international leaders who will be attending the Forum are Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron, among others.
Local flights which normally use Terminal 1 at the airport are being moved to the international Terminal 3, to make way for the special flights with dignitaries on board. Highway One, leading to Jerusalem, as well as many streets within the capital, will periodically be closed to allow the entourages to travel to their destinations with minimum delays, according to the WIN report.
The main event of the Fifth World Holocaust Forum will take place at Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, under the title “Remembering the Holocaust: Fighting Anti-Semitism.”
WIN reported that the event will mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day a little early, as the official date is January 27, the day the Soviet Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest and most infamous Nazi concentration and death camp. The objective is also to send a clear message that Jew hatred is an unacceptable phenomenon in today’s world, as well, say the organizers.
“Everyone is uniting around the message of fighting anti-Semitism,” Presidential Residence director-general Harel Tubi said, as was reported by the WIN web site.
“It shows that this is not just a problem for Jews and Israel, but one of the society in which it is developing; and therefore, when countries come here and show concern about this phenomenon,” they are telling their own people that action must be taken, Tubi added.
At the invitation of Reuven Rivlin, the President of the State of Israel, 46 members of royalty, presidents, prime ministers and parliamentary leaders from Europe, North America and Australia will attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.
The number of world leaders who answered in the affirmative to Yad Vashem’s invitation, which was accompanied by a personal letter from President Reuven Rivlin, is unprecedented, according to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, which says that this will be “the biggest political event ever” in the State of Israel’s history.
Many of the delegations are headed by their respective country’s leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Most European countries are sending either their presidents or prime ministers, while the EU as a whole will be represented by the presidents of the European Parliament and European Council. The kings of the Netherlands and Spain and Crown Prince Charles of Great Britain will add a touch of royalty to the ensemble, and the Pope is sending an envoy as well.
The Fifth World Holocaust Forum is organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, in cooperation with Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It will take place on January 23rd at Warsaw Ghetto Square in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the UN-sanctioned International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Forum will begin at 13:30, Israel time.
At 10.30 on the morning of the Forum, a press conference will take place with Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and President of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation Dr Moshe Kantor at the Yad Vashem Press Center (International School for Holocaust Studies Building).
The event program will open at 13:30 with an address by President of the State of Israel H.E. Mr. Reuven Rivlin. Additional speakers include: Prime Minister of the State of Israel H.E. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President of the United States of America H.E. Mr. Michael R. Pence (awaiting official confirmation), President of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of France H.E. Mr. Emmanuel Macron, The Prince of Wales HRH Prince Charles, and President of Germany H.E. Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Holocaust survivor and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council Rabbi Israel Meir Lau as well as Forum organizers – President of the World Holocaust Forum Foundation Dr. Moshe Kantor and Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev – will also speak at the event. Interspersed throughout the proceedings will be several short video clips and musical interludes performed by an international orchestra, conducted by world-renowned conductor Vladimir Spivakov and accompanied by an international choir.
At approximately 15:10, the Memorial Ceremony segment will begin. Holocaust survivors Rose Moskowitz from the United States and Colette Avital, Chairperson of the Center Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel will light a memorial torch, after which heads of delegations will commemorate the victims of the Holocaust by laying wreaths at the foot of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Monument in Warsaw Ghetto Square at Yad Vashem. Cantor Shai Abramson will recite the El Maleh Rahamim memorial prayer, followed by Holocaust survivor Naftali Deutsch who will say Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer. The ceremony will conclude with a moment of silence and Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah.
The World Holocaust Forum will be broadcast live via satellite feed worldwide and via Yad Vashem’s website and Facebook page. The broadcast will be translated simultaneously to six languages – English, Hebrew, French, German, Russian and Spanish.
The event takes place against the background of the rise in hateful and violent expressions of antisemitism, especially in Europe and North America. New York City has seen a frightening spate of anti-Semitic incidents and violent attacks over the last eight months. Given this alarming situation, efforts to educate about the dangers of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia and foster Holocaust commemoration and research have made this event more crucial and relevant than ever.
President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin said last week, “In a week I will be joined by heads of states and world leaders, who were invited by the European –Jewish Congress and Yad Vashem to be with me in Jerusalem, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
The presidents of Russia, Germany, France, Italy and Austria together with a representative of the United Kingdom and many other leaders, will come to Jerusalem to discuss how we can fight anti-Semitism. We will come together to think about how to pass on Holocaust remembrance to generations who will live in a world without survivors, and what urgent steps we must take to ensure the safety and security of Jews- all around the world.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Israel Katz: “Holding this high-level event in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, as we mark seventy-five years since the liberation of Auschwitz, has great historical and personal significance. I am the son of Holocaust survivors Meir and Malka Katz, may they rest in peace. My mother Malka Katz was in Auschwitz and was sent on the ‘Death March’. Since those dark days, we have defended, and developed our homeland. Today, the State of Israel is strong and advanced. The IDF ensures that the Jewish People will never again stand defenseless against its enemies. Even so, antisemitism is rising around the world. We see it in violent attacks against Jews, vandalized cemeteries, incitement, and the murder of Jews. The international community must unite against the rise of antisemitism. ”
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev: “The Holocaust has become a paradigm to measure the human capacity to engage in radical, cruel and systematic evil, not only because of its unprecedented scope – the murder of six million Jewish men, women and children – but also because of the ‘rationale”‘ behind Nazi ideology – the extermination of the Jewish people as a way to protect their own national interests and that of the “pure German race.” The ability of an advanced society to justify the eradication of an entire people and culture was supported and even encouraged by age-old antisemitic tropes, some of which are present in our post-Holocaust global society.”
“Yad Vashem works tirelessly to increase the knowledge and awareness of the history of the Holocaust, not only to ensure that its memory continues to be relevant 75 years after the end of WWII, but also as a tool to fight antisemitism, racism and xenophobia, alarming phenomena that are on the rise around the world today.”
World Holocaust Forum Foundation Founder and President Dr. Moshe Kantor: “The pledge ‘to remember and never forget’ should be a pledge for all of humanity, and not just for the Jewish people,” said Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the World Holocaust Forum. “Jewish life is once again under threat in Europe. It is under threat from the day-to-day harassment and attacks, on the streets, in schools, at universities, online, and even in their own homes. It has become so bad that the overwhelming majority of Jews in Europe no longer feel safe.”
“Antisemitism is a hatred that knows no boundaries and has been adopted by multiple ideologies. Jews are relentlessly attacked by the Left, the Right, and the mainstream. This is another pivotal point in history where the leaders of the world have to stand up and act. Words are not enough, and I conceived of the World Holocaust Forum to be a place where we can create an action plan to aggressively fight back against antisemitism.”
As mentioned previously in this article, a film will be presented to international leaders and delegations at President Rivlin’s residence on Wednesday evening. The JPost reported that among the leaders who participated in the film were President Trump who wrote: “To those who seek the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, I say: never again.”
The film also includes the words of French leader, Emmanuel Macron, who expressed his concern about the rise of antisemitism across Europe, writing that “Holocaust survivors, citizens of France and of other states, are being persecuted only because they are Jews.”