The 6 million Jews killed during the Nazi Holocaust have been remembered in Israel with two minutes of public silence. Road traffic stopped and sirens wailed.
Millions of Israelis have stood silently or halted their vehicles for two minutes silence to remember the 6 million Jews murdered during the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
The solemn day, which includes numerous broadcasts of interviews with survivors, had begun after sundown Wednesday at the Yad Vashem memorial.
Six Holocaust survivors lit six beacons. Also present at the opening ceremony were foreign diplomats and - for the first time - a delegation of European Roma and Sinti representing forebears who were also killed by Nazi Germany.
Netanyahu criticized for analogy
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism for a speech in which he compared a potentially nuclear-armed Iran to the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. Netanyahu had said, "Those who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration haven't learned a thing from the Holocaust."
Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni said it was inappropriate for Netanyahu to use such rhetorical analogies. The liberal daily newspaper Haaretz said Netanyahu has "belittled and cheapened" Holocaust memories.
Iran denies trying to build nuclear bombs while Israel is widely assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.
Ceremonies on varying dates
Israel traditionally holds its annual Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day on the 27th day of the Jewish month of Nissan, which falls Thursday. It relates to the Warsaw ghetto uprising of in the spring months of 1943 when tens of thousands of imprisoned Jews tried to rise up against their Nazi besiegers.
January 27 is the date designated by the United Nations to mark the day in 1945 when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz. Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939.
Thousands of mourners, including elderly liberators and Jewish and Polish youngsters, are expected to walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Thursday in a memorial event entitled the "March of the Living."
More than a million Jews were murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which lies 70 kilometers went of Krakow. Now an open-air museum, it covers more than 200 hectares (500 acres) and 155 buildings, including the gas chambers, 300 ruined facilities and hundreds of thousands of personal items.
ipj/sms (epd, dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)