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Museum on the Holocaust opens in Israel

Speakers urge vigilance against anti-Semitism

JERUSALEM -- Israel's president warned yesterday of renewed anti-Semitism as he participated in the opening of a $56 million Holocaust museum that focuses on the personal tragedies of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Nazi genocide.

Leaders from some 40 nations attended the ceremony at the Holocaust History Museum at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial, which took 10 years to complete. The building, designed by Israeli-American architect Moshe Safdie, spans more than 45,000 square feet -- four times larger than the museum it replaces.

Hundreds of police patrolled Jerusalem to protect the visitors, among them 15 heads of government and state. Major thoroughfares were closed to traffic and a bomb squad carried out numerous sweeps.

On hand for the inaugural ceremonies were UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; the presidents of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro, and Switzerland; prime ministers from France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Romania; and foreign ministers from Germany, Norway, and Spain.

President Moshe Katsav of Israel cut the ribbon opening the building and then called on European nations to be vigilant.

''We are concerned about Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism," he said. Europe ''must accept the burden of the memory and lessons of the Holocaust for the future it is building. It owes this to the millions of Jews who were murdered on its soil."

Annan said the main task now is to prevent a repetition of the Holocaust anywhere.

''A United Nations that fails to be at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism denies its history and undermines its future," he told dignitaries.

Representing the United States was New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

''Freedom is something we constantly have to fight for and if we ever compromise our standards, we see just how far it goes," Bloomberg told reporters.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer of Germany said the opening of the museum was ''a moment of commemoration for the 6 million murdered by Nazi Germany."

''Of course, Germany is my country, so it's also a historical and moral responsibility to never forget what happened and the responsibility of my country for the Shoah," he added, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust.

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