TEL AVIV — Israel on Wednesday granted posthumous citizenship to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
Education Minister Yitzhak Navon signed a proclamation granting the posthumous honor and also awarding honorary citizenship to non-Jews who helped Jews flee and hide from Nazi officials during World War II.
"On the 40th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, the state of Israel grants commemorative citizenship to 6 million of our brothers who were exterminated in the Holocaust," he told an assembly of 3,000 fighters and partisans who convened in Israel for an international symposium on resistance to the Nazi regime.
"The 6 million are a child who dreamt of a slice of bread and never lived to see it, a mother who wanted to hug her child and never lived to do it, a father who sought to protect his son," Navon added.
"An ancient people, wounded and persecuted, today gathers its dead and grants them the earth of Israel," Navon said.
The posthumous citizenship carries no practical significance for the surviving family members of Jews killed during the Holocaust, since all Jews have an automatic legal right to citizenship if they choose to live in Israel. It was not immediately clear how the honorary citizenship given to non-Jews who helped Jews against the Nazis would affect them if they chose to live in Israel.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who also addressed the assembly, said Hitler's reign had been the "most evil, the darkest and most malicious" Jews had ever known. "How can we but remember with joy the victory over Hitler, over racism?"