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Israel Observes Holocaust Remembrance Day

Israel is holding a somber annual observance in memory of the Holocaust. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Holocaust Remembrance Day began at sundown with a solemn ceremony attended by Israeli officials, Holocaust survivors and foreign dignitaries. They gathered at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to reflect on one of the darkest chapters in Jewish history.

Flags were lowered to half staff across the country. Places of entertainment are closed and radio and TV broadcasts are dedicated to the Holocaust.

A cantor chanted a mournful prayer as Holocaust survivors lit six torches in memory of the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II.

Israel's President Shimon Peres said the world could have faced destruction if Adolf Hitler had acquired nuclear weapons.

Peres charged that the world woke up too late to eliminate the threat from Hitler's Germany and he warned that must not happen again.

Aides said Peres was urging the world to take action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons before it is too late.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also addressed the gathering.

Mr. Olmert said today the Jews can defend themselves in their homeland, and therefore, he said, the Holocaust will never happen again.