What is with the different Holocaust Remembrance Days?

When I was a kid, my entire community observed Yom HaShoah. This came about approximately one week after Pesaḥ. Although I'm not totally sure, I think they must have followed the date observed in Israel, which is 27 Nisan. The particular date was of extreme importance to the organizers, however, because it was essential that all the various Jewish organizations joined together as one community to observe this solemn day, and the March of the Living was also scheduled around that date.

In college, or more precisely, in Yeshivah, I learned that there was some early opposition from religious groups to establish a date for Yom HaShoah, since the fast of the Tenth of Teveth was considered the catch-all for Jewish national tragedies, as is the Sefirah period*.

Nowadays, though, it seems that there are several other, non-religious, internationally recognized dates for Holocaust Remembrance.

So what's going on exactly? What's the history of these divergent observances, and who actually observes them? It still seems to me that Yom HaShoah is the dominant date observed by most people, but is that really true? Recently there was some controversy over an offensive (allegedly antisemitic) cartoon published on one of these dates. It made waves because of the double impact of resembling a blood-libel cartoon from the Nazi era and being published on "Holocaust Remembrance Day" (I think the UN-sanctioned date). But other than its own distastefulness and offensiveness, was this really an issue for most people? I mean, did anyone who is not in tune with internationally-recognized holidays make this connection because they personally observe that date?

*(As explained to me, the Three Weeks, etc., are regarded as unique dates of suffering, not to be associated with general tragedies that didn't befall the Jewish people on those specific dates.)

  • I think you got it right. Most non-religious Jews remember on 27 Nissan. Religious people have problems with mourning in Nissan (so much so that many postpone the Sfirah mourning period until after Rosh Chodesh Iyar). (Though to be fair, I think that many say that they want to remind people that Nazis killed Jews on all days, even Yomim Tovim). Therefore, some do it on Tisha B'av while others do it on 10 of Teves. Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:23
  • @ShmuelBrin, but I grew up religious, and I attended a "black-hat" Shul with close ties to both Lakewood and Telz. I currently attend a Young Israel affiliated, but predominantly "black-hat" Shul with very close ties to the local Yeshivah and the Telshe Yeshivah community.
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:29
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/7082/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 21:40
  • see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… et seq
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 21:41
  • Can you clarify the question slightly? Are you looking for a chart of all holocaust remembrance days that exist in the world (whether they are Jewish, non-Jewish, religious or secular), why they were established on that date and who observes them or are you looking for more information on the date known as Yom Hashoah and its religious significance (if any)?
    – Adam Simon
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 17:20

2 Answers 2


January 27th is probably the most universally accepted non-Jewish holocaust remembrance day. It is the anniversary of the day that Soviet Troop liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. It was designated by the UN in 2005 and as of 2004 at least 12 countries have some type of official observance on this day. Israel has designated this day, not as a holocaust remembrance day, but as a day to mark the struggle against anti-semitism. Ceremonies are held at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and in Israel's Yad VaShem. This date has a specifically non-religious character.

Nissan 27 is the most universally accepted Jewish holocaust remembrance day. The date is tied to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, but is not the actual anniversary. The actual anniversary takes place on the 14th of Nissan, but due to its proximity to Passover the date was moved to the 27th of Nissan. It was officially established by Israel's Prime Minister and President in 1953. Most communities that have a dedicated Holocaust memorial service (generally "Modern" Orthodox) will do so on Yom HaShoah (27 Nissan), while those who remember the Holocaust together with other national tragedies (generally "Yeshivish" Orthodox) will do so on Tisha B'Av or Asara B'Tevet. Some communities will also hold educational events (but not specifically religious services) on Yom HaShoah.

Many Jewish communities will hold educational and other non-religious events on the days designated by their host-countries as "Holocaust Memorial Day" or other days which may be locally designated as such or on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Janaury 27th).

  • This doesn't really answer my question, since I included that link myself, and I specifically said I'm trying to find out whether communities, religious or not, observe those dates, and how those dates were established.
    – Seth J
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 20:07
  • I updated the answer to better address what I think you are asking. If you are looking for something different please clarify. I will add, that I think that a thorough treatment of the broader international observances in remembrance of the Holocaust may be beyond the scope of this particular site.
    – Adam Simon
    Commented May 6, 2013 at 1:45

This does not completely answer your question, but I see two parts in your question. One, why a new date, Yom HaShoah, was selected as opposed to established national days of mourning, i.e., tisha b'av, and two, why this particular date. As to the first question, and I don't have my sources available right now, although we do have established dates (the kinot on tisha b'av include references to the crusades, and it has long been noted that the expulsion from Spain occured on tisha b'av), I was told that the Holocaust was such a singular event that it was felt that it needed its own memorial day. As to the selection of 27th of Nisan, I understand the "original proposal was to hold Yom HaShoah on the 14th of Nisan, the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19, 1943), but this was problematic because the 14th of Nisan is the day immediately before Pesach (Passover). The date was moved to the 27th of Nisan, which is eight days before Yom Ha'atzma'ut, or Israeli Independence Day." (quote from wikipedia).

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