Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, is one of Israel’s most famous destinations, visited by citizens, tourists and world leaders alike. To call Yad Vashem a museum minimizes the powerful impact that it has had on preserving the history of the Six Million Jews who perished during World War II.
Plans for a venue to pay tribute to the victims of the Nazis began as early as 1942 by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the first organizational offices for such a memorial was opened in 1946, more than two years before the establishment of the State of Israel. Following the 1948 War of Independence and the establishment of the State of Israel, the Remembrance Authority formally became a national project. The 1953 Yad Vashem Law authorized the new organization to act as a Jerusalem based memorial authority to commemorate the victims (individuals, families and communities) and the heroism of those who fought to preserve Jewish life, as well as acknowledging the non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews (Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations).
Yad Vashem translates literally as “Hand and Name.” The name is derived from the verse in Isaiah 56:5: “And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial (“hand”) and a name (a “yad vashem”)… that shall not be cut off.”
Built on Har Hazikaron (Mount of Remembrance) in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem opened in 1957. The new Yad Vashem complex (redesign for renovations began in 1993) was completed in 2005. There are now 28 unique memorials on the grounds of Yad Vashem. The Hall of Remembrace (Ohel Yizkor – completed in 1961), one of the most recognizable spaces in the Yad Vashem complex, is a room that contains only an eternal flame that burns in a black fire pit at the back of a black basalt floor engraved with the names of 21 Nazi extermination camps, concentration camps and killing sites in central and eastern Europe.
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