Yad Vashem (יד ושם also spelled Yad VaShem; "Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority") is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
The origin of the name is from a Biblical verse: "And to them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name (Yad Vashem) that shall not be cut off." (Isaiah, chapter 56, verse 5). (A note on orthography: the two nouns in Hebrew, yad [memorial/hand] and "shem" [name] are often capitalized in English transliterations; similarly, the Hebrew sign for "and" ["v"] is sometimes lowercased.)
Located at the foot of Mount Herzl on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, Yad Vashem is a Шаблон:Convert complex containing the Holocaust History Museum, memorial sites, such as the Children's Memorial and the Hall of Remembrance, The Museum of Holocaust Art, sculptures, outdoor commemorative sites such as the Valley of the Communities, a synagogue, archives, a research institute, library, publishing house and an educational center, The International School for Holocaust Studies. Non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, at personal risk, are honored by Yad Vashem as "Righteous Among the Nations."
The new Holocaust History Museum, opened in March 2005, was built as a prism-like triangular structure. It is 180 meters long, in the form of a spike, which cuts directly through the mountainside. Its stark walls are made of reinforced concrete, and it covers an area of over 4,200 square meters, most of which is underground. At the uppermost edge of the shaft is a skylight, protruding through the mountain edge.
There are 10 exhibition halls, each devoted to a different chapter in the history of the Holocaust. Unlike the exhibition in the old museum, which was primarily composed of photographs, the new exhibition is a multi-media presentation that incorporates survivor testimonies as well as personal artifacts donated to Yad Vashem by Holocaust survivors, the families of those who perished, Holocaust museums and memorial sites around the world. The exhibits are set up chronologically, with the testimonies and artifacts accentuating the individual stories used to highlight the historical narrative throughout the museum.
The museum is designed so the visitor begins above underground, proceeds to the lowest underground point in the center of the museum, and then slowly walks upwards towards the exit. The exit from the main part of the museum is onto a balcony overlooking a stunning view of Jerusalem, the visitor stepping from a dark corridor into direct sunlight (weather and time of day permitting).
In 1993, Yad Vashem decided to build a larger museum to replace the one built during the 1960s. This was in response to the need to provide a meaningful way of commemorating the Holocaust amid the technological advances of the new millennium, while appealing to younger generations, whose responsibility it will be to pass on the legacy of Holocaust remembrance. The new Holocaust History museum is the largest Holocaust museum in the world. It is carved into the Mount of Remembrance and designed to reflect the story of the European Jewish community during the Holocaust. Consisting of a long corridor connected to 10 exhibition halls, each dedicated to a different chapter of the Holocaust, the museum tells the story of the Holocaust from a Jewish perspective. The museum combines the personal stories of 90 Holocaust victims and survivors and presents in its exhibitions some 2,500 personal items including artwork and letters from the Holocaust donated by survivors and others. At the end of the Holocaust History Museum is the Hall of Names, a memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. The main Hall is composed of two cones: one extending ten meters skywards, echoed by a reciprocal well-like cone excavated into the natural underground rock, its base filled with water. On the upper cone is a display featuring 600 photographs of Holocaust victims and fragments of Pages of Testimony. These are reflected in the water at the bottom of the lower cone, commemorating those victims whose names remain unknown. Surrounding the platform is the circular repository, housing the approximately 2.1 million Pages of Testimony collected so far, with empty spaces for those yet to be submitted—room for six million Pages in all. Attached is a study area with a computerized data bank and where online searches of Holocaust victims' names may be performed on the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. Access to the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names is also available on the Internet at .
Since the 1950s, Yad Vashem has collected approximately 46,000 audio, video and written testimonies by Holocaust survivors; as the survivors age and are beginning to become less mobile, the program has expanded to visiting survivors in their homes to tape interviews.
On March 15, 2005, the dedication of the new Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, Israel took place. The impressive building was designed by the world acclaimed Canadian-Israeli architect, Moshe Safdie. Leaders from 40 states and former Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan attended the inauguration of the Holocaust History museum. President of Israel Moshe Katzav said that the new museum serves as "an important signpost to all of humankind, a signpost that warns how short the distance is between hatred and murder, between racism and genocide."
The grounds of Yad Vashem display sculpture by Naftali Bezem, Ilana Gur, Lea Michelson, Nathan Rapoport, Moshe Safdie, Boris Saktsier, Zahara Schatz, Buky Schwartz, Shlomo Selinger, and Marcelle Swergold.
One of Yad Vashem's tasks is to honor non-Jews who risked their lives, liberty or positions to save Jews during the Holocaust. To this end a special independent Commission, headed by a retired Supreme Court Justice, was established. The commission members, including historians, public figures, lawyers and Holocaust survivors, examine and evaluate each case according to a well-defined set of criteria and regulations. The Righteous receive a certificate of honor and a medal and their names are commemorated in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations , on the Mount of Remembrance, Yad Vashem. This is an ongoing project that will continue for as long as there are valid requests, substantiated by testimonies or documentation. As of 2008, more than 22,000 individuals have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
Much of the controversy surrounding Pius XII derives from an inscription at Yad Vashem stating that his record was controversial, but not explaining why. The inscription goes on to state that he negotiated a concordat with the Nazis, maintained Vatican neutrality during the war and took no initiatives to save Jews.
In 1985, Pietro Palazzini was honored by the museum, where he protested the repeated criticisms against Pius, on whose instructions Palazzini declared to have acted. Palazzini, an theological advisor to the Pontiff, had taught and written about the moral theology of Pope Pius XII.
Rabbi David G. Dalin argues in The Myth of Hitler's Pope that Yad Vashem should honor Pope Pius XII as a "Righteous Gentile", and documents that Pius was praised by all the leading Jews of his day for his role in saving more Jews than Oskar Schindler.
Rabbi David Rosen has taken exception to the caption, stating when Pius died both Moshe Sharett and Golda Meir sent telegrams stating that when darkness reigned over Europe, he was one of the few who raised his voice in protest. "What Yad Vashem says is not necessarily wrong," conceded Rosen, "but it doesn't give us all the information." Rabbi Rosen later quoted eminent historian Martin Gilbert, who says that Pius saved thousands of Jews.
The idea of establishing a memorial in the historical Jewish homeland for Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust was conceived during World War II, as a response to reports of the mass murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied countries.
Yad Vashem was first proposed in September 1942, at a board meeting of the Jewish National Fund, by Mordecai Shenhavi, a member of Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'emek.
In August 1945, the plan was discussed in greater detail at a Zionist meeting in London where it was decided to set up a provisional board of Zionist leaders with David Remez as chairman, Shlomo Zalman Shragai, Baruch Zuckerman, and Shenhavi.
In February 1946, Yad Vashem opened an office in Jerusalem and a branch office in Tel Aviv and in June that year, convened its first plenary session. In July 1947, the First Conference on Holocaust Research was held at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where further plans were made for Yad Vashem. However, the outbreak in May 1948 of the War of Independence, brought almost all Yad Vashem operations to a standstill for two years. In 1953, the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, unanimously passed the Yad Vashem Law, establishing the Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
In 2000, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder visited Yad Vashem as a guest of Israeli Premier Ehud Barak and was invited to turn a handle to boost the Eternal Flame. In a much reported diplomatic gaffe he turned the handle the wrong way and extinguished it.
In 2003, Yad Vashem was honored with the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the State of Israel's most prestigious award. The category of Lifetime achievement was for "a unique contribution to society and the State."
In 2005, in response to a letter by Sa'ar Netanel, a member of the Jerusalem City Council, Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, promised a presentation of information on "other victims" in a "relevant place". Some information on other victims of the Nazis can be found on Yad Vashem's web site as of January 2008.
In September 2007, Yad Vashem received the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. The Prince of Asturias Awards is presented in 8 categories. The Award for Concord is bestowed upon the person, persons or institution whose work has made an exemplary and outstanding contribution to mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence amongst men, to the struggle against injustice or ignorance, to the defense of freedom, or whose work has widened the horizons of knowledge or has been outstanding in protecting and preserving mankind's heritage.
On October 25, 2007, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev was honored with the Légion d’Honneur for his "extraordinary work on behalf of Holocaust remembrance worldwide." French President Nicolas Sarkozy personally presented Shalev with the award in a special ceremony at the Elysee Palace.
Yad Vashem is the second most visited tourist site in Israel, after the Western Wall, with over one million visitors during 2007.
During 2008, Yad Vashem has already hosted a wide range of VIPs and dignitaries, beginning with US President George W. Bush, who visited in January 2008. Also in January, Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies held the first ever International Youth Congress on the Holocaust. Over 100 young people, from 62 countries and five continents gathered at Yad Vashem for a three-day Youth Congress. The Congress, under the patronage of UNESCO, was devoted to the study of the Holocaust and discussions of its universal significance. Participants, ranging in age from 17 to 19, and including among them Christians, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists, and speaking some 30 different languages, studied various Holocaust-related topics, toured Yad Vashem and Jerusalem, participated in workshops, and met with Holocaust survivors. Special sessions were held with Israeli dignitaries including president Shimon Peres.
During March 2008, German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel accompanied by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and eight ministers from each government visited Yad Vashem. A memorial ceremony, with the participation of the Chancellor, the Prime Minister, and the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev, took place in the Hall of Remembrance.
On November 9, 2008, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was appointed by the Israeli government as Chairman of Yad Vashem to replace the late Tommy Lapid.