Rwandans yesterday joined the rest of the world to commemorate the Holocaust in which millions of Jews were killed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1941 and 1945.
The ceremony marked the International Holocaust Memorial Day, a global day of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust in the world.
The event, at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, Gisozi, was organised by the Embassy of Israel in Rwanda in partnership with Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.
The day commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated six million Jewish people, 200,000 Romani people, and 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.
The ceremony was attended by government representatives, Rwandan citizens, diplomats, and UN Rwanda officials.
Speaking at the event, Belaynesh Zevadia, the Israeli envoy to Rwanda, described the act of commemoration as an obligation that people have to always fulfill.
“On this day of commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, we fulfill our obligation never to forget because every victim had a name, a story, a family, a childhood, and a future cut short,” Zevadia said as she warned against tendencies of anti-Semitism,” she said.
“The Holocaust, thank God, is behind us but the hatred and intolerance that drove it is not. It is up to the forces of civilisation, the forces of conscience, the forces of responsibility to join together to stop this process,” she said.
Zevadia hailed Rwanda and Israel as nations that are succeeding in rebuilding from the ashes of their tragedies.
“Both nations are thriving, being able to overcome the past and growing stronger. I admire the people of Rwanda and I’m proud of the strong friendship between the two countries,” she said.
One of the climaxes of the event was the touching testimony of Professor Daniel, a Lithuania born survivor of the Holocaust.
Born in 1937, Daniel was only four when the Holocaust started in Europe.
He recounted sorrowful childhood memories of how the Nazi soldiers locked his family in a concentration camp, taking adults into forced labour, as well as killing many people, including his mother among many family members.
Daniel advised that the most important tool in eliminating genocide ideology among people is education.
“If you can employ the right education, the genocide ideologies will be eliminated. For the two days I have been here, I have got the impression that in Rwanda you are doing the very best in unifying people and it is done in a very intelligent way,” he said.
Peter Woeste, the ambassador of Germany to Rwanda, described the event as “the most moving and touching ceremony” though difficult and shameful on the part of Germany’s history.
“It is amazing to see the forgiveness from people who experienced these atrocities,” Woeste said, as he called upon genocide perpetrators “to be open, don’t deny it,” as one solution for a good future.