Who should not Commemorate at Yad Vashem?

Some reflections on the 47th Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the 5th World Holocaust |Forum                                             

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Who should  not be  allowed to attend the Commemoration at Yad Vashem ?

The remembrance of the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is a deeply personal experience for a) the Jewish survivors; b) for the survivors of the related genocides against the gypsies and those with disabilities; c) the surviving Righteous among the Nations; d) what I would call the Righteous Heads of Government among governments, such as those of Albania, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and e) the respective families and direct descendants of the victims and of the successors in title of the government heads in question.

Historical time-frame to which the Commemoration relates

I submit that the material historical framework relevant to the Commemoration is and must be the period starting with Hitler’s ascendance to power in 1933 and ending  when  the Germans could no longer carry on with their genocidal scheme and abandoned it .

    Rights of Participation in the Commemoration proceedings at Yad Vachem     

The exclusive right of attendance

I submit that attendance at the Yad Vachem Commemoration proceedings must be exclusively limited to the foregoing persons; the representatives of the State of Israel and  physical space permitting; other Jews and  Jewish organisations, selected by the Government.

The countries that must be explicitly barred from participating in the Commemoration in Israel having regard to the material facts concerning these countries during the period 1933-1945

I submit that Yad Vachem is not an appropriate venue for the participation  of the countries that fit into the following criteria:

  1. a) Aided and abetted Germany in the perpetration of the Holocaust which, if I am not mistaken, includes all of the E.U countries, save Denmark, Sweden and Norway (through its resistance fighters);
  2. b) Used the Holocaust to perpetrate their own genocide against their Jewish citizens such as Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia ,Finland and others;
  3. c) Seek to re-write history in order to whitewash their culpability in participating in the Holocaust such as Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, to mention a few;
  4. d) Looked away, played deaf and dumb and locked their doors to Jews that had the opportunity to get away or escaped from ghettos or concentration camps, such as the United States, Canada and Britain (save for the “Kindertransport”) ;
  5. e) The Vatican which refused or failed to invoke its moral authority though the practice of “holy silence”  by the late Pope Pius XII.

Strangely enough, to this day ,the Vatican has steadfastly refused to remove the church of the Oswiecim  community established in the former Auschwitz SS headquarters where violence and rape were perpetrated against the Jewish inmates. The refusal continues , despite the on –going protests and insistent demands of a group of Rabbis which commenced  decades ago on the ground that the presence of the Church amounts to a desecration of the memory of the Holocaust.

The depressing conclusion

Not surprisingly, a good many number of  the countries  I identified  above  are also those  where  the rate and  gravity  of  various types of extremist actions directed against Jews and Jewish institutions  is high and serious and  moving rapidly higher.

Based on the foregoing, by no means exhaustive list, clearly the countries that may attend the ceremony is shortened, depressingly to the point of near exhaustion in the Western world.


I am not naïve enough to think that the exclusion of the foregoing countries is a diplomatically wise thing to do or for that matter, that the Government of Israel would adopt such a list.

Having made this admission, I must ask the Jewish people and the State of Israel whether,

  1. a) The memory of the Shoah and the Commemoration in Memory of the victims of the Shoah is part of our sacred historical heritage, and;
  2. b) This heritage, imposes upon us all, the corresponding sacred duty to protect it, against the countries which ought to be barred from attending the Commemoration

If your answers to both questions are in affirmative, as I submit they must be, then I further submit that surely allowing the leaders of the countries identified above to attend at Yad Vachem  would be tantamount to desecrating both the memory and the Commemoration of the memory of the victims of Shoah.

Surely, if there is one instance where breach of duty cannot be and ought not to be allowed under any circumstances, this must be it.

Let us than perform our sacred duty, no matter come what.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu  put it “…some 80 years ago, when the Jewish people faced annihilation, the world turned its back on us.”

Let us then keep reminding the world clearly and forcefully at least once a year that the governments  of the countries that turned their backs on the Jewish people commencing 1933  cannot  now expect to partake in the Commemoration at Yad Vachem, as if nothing had happened.

We, the Jewish people cannot  forgive them  on behalf of the victims. Nor should we allow them to attend at Yad Vachem as this would be tantamount to allowing them to desecrate the memory of the victims rather than to commemorate it.

Alternative Note

Given the adverse political implications of barring the specified  countries, the matter ought to be finessed by declining to invite any country on the ground that the attendance at the Commemoration  is a deeply personal matter for the persons in the group of  identified above and  that the government is duty bound to respect  their communion  with one another and with the memory of the victims.




About the Author
Doğan Akman was born and schooled in Istanbul, Turkey. Upon his graduation from Lycee St. Michel, he immigrated to Canada with his family. In Canada, he taught university in sociology-criminology and social welfare policy and published some articles in criminology journals After a stint as a Judge of the Provincial Court (criminal and family divisions) of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he joined the Federal Department of Justice working first as a Crown prosecutor, and then switching to civil litigation and specialising in aboriginal law. Since his retirement he has published articles in Sephardic Horizons and e-Sefarad and in an anthology edited by Rifat Bali titled This is My New Homeland and published in Istanbul.
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