What Is Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial?


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JERUSALEM — A long line of international dignitaries have paid visits to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and President Biden’s visit on Wednesday was not his first.

As vice president in 2010, he toured the site’s Holocaust History Museum, Hall of Names, Children’s Memorial and Hall of Remembrance, where he participated in a memorial ceremony, and where an eternal flame burns by a crypt containing the ashes of Holocaust victims, commemorating the six million Jews killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.

Back then, Mr. Biden spoke movingly of how, as a young father, he had taken each of his sons at age 15 to Dachau, the Nazis’ first concentration camp. It was established in Germany in 1933 and liberated by the United States 12 years later. Mr. Biden said he had wanted his sons to understand the “ability of mankind to be so brutal.”

The president’s visit to Yad Vashem might be a resonance of the human spirit, and its capacity for survival.

After arriving there on Wednesday, Mr. Biden donned a black kippa and met Yad Vashem’s chairman, Dani Dayan, a former settler leader who was Israel’s consul general in New York.

Two Holocaust survivors were then met by the president and his delegation. Rena Quint Giselle CicowiczMs. Quint, a young girl who survived several concentration camps, and then immigrated to the United States after the war. Ms. Quint was a child during the Holocaust. Ms. Cycowicz was a teenager. They are both part of a dying generation that can witness the Nazi atrocities.

With the two seated on chairs, Mr. Biden crouched down to their level, spoke with them for several minutes, clasped their hands and kissed them on their cheeks — again diverging from a suggestion earlier in the day by his national security adviser that the president would Avoid physical contact, such as shaking handsDuring his four day trip, he mentioned the rapidly-growing new Covid-19 variant.

In a memorial ceremony, Biden lit the eternal flame. A children’s choir performed “Walk to Caesarea,” a 1942 poem by Hannah Szenes, a Hungarian Jewish resistance fighter in World War II. It was put to music in 1945 after Ms. Scenes was executed behind enemy lines.

A cantor also recited a Jewish prayer for the souls of the Nazis’ victims.

Accompanying him on the visit were Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog; Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor; Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a former chief rabbi of Israel who is chairman of Yad Vashem’s council and himself a survivor; Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz; Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken; and Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s national security adviser.


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