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Israel comes to standstill in somber remembrance of Holocaust victims

The annual remembrance is one of the most solemn days on Israel’s national calendar, with much of the country all but shutting down to honor those who suffered under the Nazi killing machine.

The sirens will be followed by ceremonies marking Holocaust Remembrance Day in schools, public institutions, and army bases, including a wreath-laying ceremony at Yad Vashem’s memorial for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the Knesset’s annual recitation of victims’ names. The March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland will begin at 1 p.m.

Events will officially come to a close in ceremonies at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters) and Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, named after those who resisted the Nazis in Warsaw and the leader of the uprising, Mordechai Anielewicz.

The national day began Wednesday evening at sundown, as ceremonies were held throughout the country, with solemn songs, candle-lightings and remembrances from survivors and their descendants.

TV channels and radio stations switched to exclusive programming about the Holocaust and stores and restaurants shuttered early in deference to the commemorations.

Busy highway comes to standstill as sirens goes off for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Israelis stood in silence while a two-minute siren was heard across the country, in remembrance of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

People stopped what they’re doing, pedestrians stood in place, buses stopped on busy streets and cars pulled over on major highways – their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed.

Also, in homes and businesses, people stopped what they were doing to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide, in which a third of world Jewry was annihilated.

The names of those who perished in the genocide were to be read aloud in the Knesset throughout the day.

Restaurants, cafes and places of entertainment shut down, and radio and TV programming are dedicated almost exclusively to documentaries about the Holocaust, interviews with survivors and somber music.

The Israeli flag flew at half-staff.

According to the Hebrew calendar, Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising – the most significant, yet doomed, act of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust that helped shape Israel’s national psyche, symbolizing strength and the struggle for freedom in the face of annihilation.