The world could have faced destruction if Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had succeeded in acquiring nuclear weapons, Israeli President Shimon Peres said at a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, comparing that era to the nuclear threat Israel perceives from Iran today.
The ceremony on Wednesday evening at Yad Vashem, Israel?? official Holocaust memorial and research center in Jerusalem, opened the annual memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis in World War II.
Hundreds of Holocaust survivors and other Israelis filled the main plaza on a cool evening to listen to speeches, prayers and music, including a children?? harmonica band founded by Shmuel Gogol, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto.
Restaurants and places of entertainment closed throughout the country. After a memorial air raid siren yesterday morning, further ceremonies were to include the public reading of names of Holocaust victims at sites around the country.
Peres, 84, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and serves now as ceremonial head of state, observed that the Jewish people might have been tardy in setting up their state too late to rescue Jews from Europe.
Peres charged that the world woke up too late to eliminate the threat of Hitler before he started a war that killed 60 million people, warning that the world must not let that happen again.
??n history, it is forbidden to be late,??he said.
??y heart shudders when I recall that there was a possibility that Hitler could acquire nuclear weapons,??he said. ?? leader who plans mass destruction, together with weapons of mass destruction.??br />
??hat would have been left of our world???he asked.
Aides confirmed that Peres was comparing Hitler and Nazi Germany to Iran and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad though Peres did not do so explicitly. Despite Iranian denials, Israel believes Tehran is trying to build nuclear weapons and Ahmadinejad has called repeatedly for Israel?? destruction.
??he world must act on its responsibilities without delay,??he added, in what aides said was another reference to Iran.
Speakers at Wednesday?? opening ceremony repeatedly referred to Israel?? military strength, asserting that it could prevent another mass catastrophe from befalling the Jewish people.
In his speech, Peres criticized the German people of the 1930s for electing and venerating a ??razy person,??Hitler.
??ow is it possible that a people does not rise up in the face of murder in the streets, an army rolling on tank treads to destroy neighbors of yesterday and friends of the day before???he asked.