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Israel pays tribute to victims of Holocaust

By AP Reporter

Israel came to a standstill on Monday as people stopped for a two-minute siren that wailed across the country in remembrance of the Holocaust's six million Jewish victims.

The ritual is the centrepiece of Israel's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day for those who were systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during the Second World War.

Pedestrians stood in place, buses stopped on busy streets and cars pulled over on major highways, with their drivers standing in the roads with their heads bowed.

In homes and businesses, people stopped what they were doing to pay homage to the victims of the Nazi genocide.

A wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial followed, with Israeli leaders and Holocaust survivors in attendance.

A public reading of names also took place in Israel's parliament, where prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders recited names of relatives who were killed.

Other ceremonies, prayers and musical performances took place in schools, community centres and army bases around the country.

The annual remembrance is one of the most solemn days on Israel's calendar.

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

The Israeli flag flew at half-staff.

Israel was established in 1948, just three years after the end of the war, and hundreds of thousands of survivors fled there.

Some 160,000 elderly survivors remain, with a similar number worldwide.

With the passing years, and the dwindling in numbers of survivors, greater emphasis has been put on commemorating their individual stories.

The Holocaust memorial called on the public to share testimony and provide more names of those who perished.

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