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New Holocaust Museum Opens in Jerusalem

Heads of State, ministers and dignitaries from more than 40 countries took part in Tuesday's opening of the new Holocaust museum in Jerusalem.

The ancient blast of the ram's horn mixed with the sounds of the music that grew as Jews were spread across North Africa, Russia, and Central Europe, sounds that echoed on the solemn stones of the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

The new museum brings the horror and the tragedy of the Holocaust home to future generations and those who might not be so familiar with the dark period of the 20th century when some six million Jews perished in the Nazi genocide.

This history lesson is not the dry stuff of facts and figures. It is a collection of personal stories that unfolded in daily Jewish life in Europe of the 1920s and 30s. On display is a living room that would have been typical of a Jewish family of that time. There's a life-size replica of a street in the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw and even a railway car - one of many that carried Jews to Nazi concentration camps. All the articles displayed at the museum are real, a fact not lost on the dignitaries in attendance.

Among those attending Tuesday's ceremonies were the United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan along with presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other dignitaries from over 40 nations. Representing the United States was New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Former mayor Ed Koch was also there.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav spoke eloquently of the lessons of history to be learned, of the burden placed on the current generation to never forget.

Moshe Katsav said we are concerned about Holocaust denial and said it should not only be Israelis who are vigilant. He called on Europe to stop the rise of anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon shared personal remembrances of the Holocaust and how he, like most Jews of his generation, was affected. But, he also spoke bluntly about how Jews must look after themselves.

He said the state of Israel is the only place in the world where Jews have the right and the power to protect themselves by themselves. He said that is the only guarantee that the Jewish people will never know another Holocaust.

The museum was 10 years in the making. It covers more than 4,000 square meters and cost close to $60 million to build.

Its builders hope the message it sends will echo for generations to come.