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January 27, 2014
An International Day to Remember
While Jewish communities have been memorializing the Holocaust since the ethnic cleansing campaign ended in 1945, it was not until this past decade that an international day of remembrance was established.
In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as the day to honor the memory of the millions who lost their lives to the Nazis during World War II. The date coincides with the liberation of the largest Nazi death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, in 1945 by Soviet troops.
Though 6 million Jews comprised the majority of those who were killed, there were a further 2 million Gypsies, 15,000 homosexuals and countless others who were murdered as well.
This year dozens of lawmakers from Israel, the United States and Europe convened at Auschwitz-Birkenau for ceremonies.
The foreign parliamentary delegation included 58 Knesset members, constituting nearly half of the Israeli parliament, making it is the largest Knesset delegation ever to have visited the Auschwitz compound, organizers of the event said.
The U.S. delegation was headed by Rep. Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican and the first Jewish majority leader of Congress. With Cantor were Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). They were joined by 23 lawmakers from 10 European Union member states who came with European Friends of Israel and the Israeli-Jewish Congress.
At least 34 countries participate in officially commemorating the day, including Germany, Israel, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Poland.
In addition to International Holocaust Remembrance Day, there are a few other dates during which various nations remember Holocaust victims:
In Israel, Yom Hashoah, Hebrew for “day of remembrance,” takes place on the 27th of the month of Nisan. On the Gregorian calendar, it usually falls in April or May and Israeli citizens come to a complete standstill at 10am as sirens are sounded around the country.
Many Jewish communities around the world mark the day with a ceremony or by lighting memorial candles.
In the United States, Congress has designated the eight days before Yom Hashoah as the Days of Remembrance. This year, Holocaust Remembrance Week will take place April 27 to May 4.