Yom Hashoah, is observed each year on the 27th of Nissan, unless that date falls adjacent to Shabbat, which is the case this year. It is therefore being commemorated today, which is the 28th of Nissan.

Jews around the world will mark Yom Hashoah (Officially Yom Ha’zikaron La’shoah V’ha’g’vurah, which translates to “The Day of Memorial for the Holocaust and the Heroism,” generally shortened to Yom Hashoah). In Israel, the day is marked by official ceremonies, flags at half-mast and, most famously, by a siren marking a moment of silence during which traffic comes to a standstill.

When World War II ended and the world was finally clearly aware of the incredible devastation wrought in Europe, there were no words sufficient to properly express the Jewish people’s grief. While mourning for their own nation’s soldiers, the world was faced with accepting the fact that the Nazis had purposefully and systematically murdered six million Jewish men, women and children as well as several million others whom the Nazi’s classified as lesser human beings.

The term “Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin used to describe massacres. As it came to be applied to the events in Europe in the 1940s, the term emerged as the name for this highly specific genocide. This was strengthened by the release of the 1978 NBC mini-series of the same title.

In Hebrew, the Holocaust is referred to as Shoah. Shoah means calamity. Similar to the term Holocaust, the term “Shoah” gained further usage after the release of the 1985 French documentary entitled “Shoah.” The film condensed over 300 hours worth of interviews into 9.5 hours and brought the hard-hitting facts of the Holocaust into reality.

In traditional communities, the events of the Holocaust are referred to as “Churban Europe” or “the Churban,” a term which parallels the destruction of the Torah learning centers in Europe with the destruction of the Holy Temple. Many of the more traditional communities mark a day of mourning for the victims of the Holocaust on already established traditional days of universal mourning, either the Tenth of Tevet or the Ninth of Av.

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