President Barack Obama commemorated Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) by releasing the statement below. He will also be speaking at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday, April 23.
On this Holocaust Remembrance Day, I join people of all faiths across the United States, in Israel and around the world in paying tribute to all who suffered in the Shoah-a horrific crime without parallel in human history. We honor the memory of six million innocent men, women and children who were sent to their deaths simply because of their Jewish faith. We stand in awe of those who fought back, in the ghettos and in the camps, against overwhelming odds. And in the year of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, we are humbled by the rescuers who refused to be bystanders to evil.
On this day, and all days, we must do more than remember. We must resolve that “never again” is more than an empty slogan. As individuals, we must guard against indifference in our hearts and recognize ourselves in our fellow human beings. As societies, we must stand against ignorance and anti-Semitism, including those who try to deny the Holocaust. As nations, we must do everything we can to prevent and end atrocities in our time. This is the work I will advance when I join survivors and their families at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday. This must be the work of us all, as nations and peoples who cherish the dignity of every human being.
Obama also recorded a video honoring Raul Wallenberg’s work to rescue Jews during the Holocaust:
At a ceremony on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner gathered with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, members of Congress, leaders of Jewish organizations, and veterans of World War II. Natasha Mozgovaya of Haaretz wrote:
Oren spoke about trivialization of the Holocaust. ‘We must not allow the memory of the six million to be trivialized. Human history is rife with atrocities, massacres, and wars, but nothing that can be equated with the enormity ofthe Holocaust. It is profoundly, unbearably, unique,’ said Oren.
Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner also spoke at the ceremony. ‘When we think about the Holocaust, we are forced to come to terms with more than just the evil of Adolf Hitler. We must also confront the failures that allowed this genocide to occur—the moral failures, the institutional failures, the cowardice and apathy and hate,’ said Geithner.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta commemorated Yom HaShoah at the Pentagon alongside Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak following their bilateral meeting. According to the Department of Defense:
‘Today we pause to remember and honor 6 million souls who were murdered not because of anything they had done, but because of who they were,’ Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during a Holocaust Remembrance Day program at the Pentagon today….
The secretary said he helped to establish Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day -as a U.S. observance while serving in the House of Representatives in 1980. It’s also an occasion to remember survivors of the Holocaust, he noted.
‘They bore witness to evil and to tragedy,’ he said, ‘and in their strength we all find inspiration - inspiration to fight against the intolerance and indifference that allowed all of this to happen.’...
Yom Hashoah also is a day to celebrate the Jewish people, ‘who overcame this tragedy and built a strong and vibrant Jewish state in Israel,’ Panetta said.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who arrived at the Pentagon today for bilateral defense talks with Panetta, also attended the Holocaust Remembrance Day event. Panetta said Barak, a highly decorated soldier, prime minister, and now minister of defense, has lived his life as a tribute to the memory of the Holocaust, and to the memory of his two grandparents who were murdered at the Treblinka death camp in occupied Poland.
‘Ehud, I am proud to be your partner, I’m proud to be your friend, and I’m proud to work with you in continuing to strengthen the U.S.-Israel defense relationship,’ the secretary said.
Click here to read more about the event.
Click here to read Panetta’s full remarks.
Panetta and Barak at the memorial.
Several other Democratic leaders released statements commemorrating the memorial as well. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said:
Holocaust Remembrance Day is a time of reflection; a moment to mourn the loss of millions and to heed the lessons of our past; an opportunity to remember those who perished and to recall one of the darkest chapters in human history.
We honor the indomitable spirit of the survivors, draw strength from their perseverance, and recognize the actions of unsung heroes who saved lives and protected innocent men, women, and children.
On this solemn occasion, we stand with families of all those persecuted, attacked, and brutally murdered for who they were. We pledge to speak out and act wherever prejudice persists, human rights are threatened, and lives are at risk. We carry on the message of those forever silenced: to never forget their story and to never stand idly by in the face of injustice.
As the tragic tales of the Holocaust fill ceremonies around the world, we must renew our commitment to preserve freedom for all faiths, respect for all people, and security for all nations. We must pray, in the enduring words written by Anne Frank, that ‘it will all come right, that…cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.’ We must act to ensure that the memories of the victims will be a blessing for us and for generations to come.
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said:
For over six decades, people throughout the world have paused on this day to reflect and remember the tragedy of the Holocaust. More than any other day, Yom HaShoah compels each of us to consider the nature of evil so that we may strive toward goodness. It is a powerful reminder, too, of the importance of a strong and secure State of Israel. I will never forget my visits to Yad Vashem in Israel and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where millions of individuals and their lost communities are honored and preserved in our memories forever.
Through the cloud of genocide came bright rays of heroism and resistance, which continue to inspire Americans today. Those triumphs of spirit and bold defiance in the face of Nazism proved that no force, however dark, could ever destroy hope itself or diminish the universal dream of peace and a brighter future.
Americans continue to be proud of having fought Fascism and helped liberate Nazism’s survivors, many of whom still live in our communities. By observing this memorial and teaching our children the lessons of the Holocaust, we are continuing the work of those brave Americans who first opened the gates of Dachau and delivered aid, comfort, and a new chance at life. At a time when those who bore witness first-hand to the Holocaust are becoming fewer, we must recommit ourselves to ensuring that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can continue to pass along this lesson never to forget.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said:
Today we honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and the millions of others who tragically lost their lives during the Holocaust. The Holocaust left an indelible mark on the world that we will not forget. This day reminds us that as Americans, we must confront the horrors of genocide, oppression, and persecution with our own values of freedom, liberty, and justice.
The legacy we mark during this day of remembrance is defined by hope, and the state of Israel reminds us that hope perseveres in times of struggle and hardship. Our nation and Israel share a historic relationship rooted in core values of democracy and justice, and it is more important than ever that the United States continue to stand with Israel.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said:
We must remain ever vigilant to acts of intolerance and injustice that can escalate to hatred and eventually turn into violence. This year, a year when anti-Semitism reared its ugly head right here in New Jersey, most egregiously in the firebombing of a Bergen County synagogue and attack on the rabbi and his family, we resolved once again to stand together against hate.
In the aftermath of that unthinkable event, a community gathered around one gentle rabbi and his family - Christians, Muslims, Jews - all standing shoulder-to-shoulder, courageously speaking out for tolerance, civility, and for the sanctity of human life and religious freedom. This was humanity at its best and for this, New Jerseyans can be proud.
This year, in the memory of the six million who perished during the Holocaust, as we commemorate the significance of Yom HaShoah and the importance of each and every life, let us stand as one nation indivisible, united by our common concerns rather than divided by our differences.
Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY):
On this day, we can also remind the world that the Holocaust happened, something denied to this day by the rogue Iranian government and some other world leaders. It reminds us that only a strong and secure State of Israel can stand tall against the forces seeking to carry out what the Nazis began decades ago. We must also remember the bravery of the men and women who endured the Holocaust, those who risked their lives to prevent others from suffering the fate of six million Jews, and soldiers who fought bravely to finally bring an end to the suffering. In the face of pure evil, the good of humanity was also revealed.
I urge all Americans, and all of the people of the world, to reflect on Yom HaShoah on what took place during World War II, to remember the other genocides which have taken place through the course of history, and to stand strong to prevent another one from happening in the decades to come.
Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) said:
On Yom HaShoah, better known as Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, people from all walks of life regardless of politics, faith, race, gender, or sexual orientation recognize the Holocaust as one of the most horrific events in world history. Since the end of World War II the United States and our allies have promised to never allow such mass genocide to be repeated. Never again shall humanity experience the evil and destruction that brutally robbed eleven million people of their lives.
After the Allies took back Europe from the forces of evil, millions of Jews emigrated to the United States and to the area now globally recognized as the State of Israel. It is here where the Jewish people found a home to restore their identity in the aftermath of the War. When General Dwight Eisenhower arrived at Buchenwald, he ordered the U.S. 4th Armed Division to tour the facility. He wanted them to bear witness to the atrocities unleashed on human beings so that no person would ever question what happened.
For the Holocaust survivors, they live with the nightmares and trauma of having seen their brothers and sisters treated like animals. To this day former prisoners wake up seeing the most visible scar from that era, an identification tattoo forced on them upon entering the concentration camps.
New York is home to half of the Holocaust survivors living in the United States. Although we can never undo this tragedy, we can continue to remember and pay tribute to the survivors and their families. I am proud to live in a country that recognizes human rights and has provided sanctuary to oppressed people throughout the world. America must continue to remain that beacon of hope.
Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) said:
The stories of individuals such as Raoul Wallenberg continue to both inspire and astound. The Talmud teaches that to save one life is to save the world, and so the stories of individuals who took action to rescue their fellow citizens are also stories of ordinary people saving entire worlds. For example, Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, was tortured and faced execution after she aided in the smuggling of over 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, is credited with saving over 1,100 Jews by employing them in his factories. In another extraordinary story of rescue, an entire community of Greek Jews was saved through the efforts of two men, Mayor Loukas Karrer and Greek Orthodox Bishop Chrysostomos. Over 23,000 ‘Righteous Gentiles’ testify to the fact that the spark of humanity can exist even amidst great brutality in the darkest of times.
This week, and indeed all throughout the year, we must remember those whose lives were lost during the Holocaust. Let us continue to recognize the importance of freedom and human rights, and the sanctity of human dignity. As we remember the unthinkable consequences of what can occur when hate and intolerance are allowed to run rampant, let us also be motivated by the stories of individuals who risked all to confront injustice and genocide.
Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) said:
In August 1941, at the height of conflict in World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who had been briefed on the systematic killings of Jews in Europe, declared, ‘We are in the presence of a crime without a name.’ Today, two generations later, we remember the six million men, women and children who, along with others labeled inferior by the Nazi regime, were systematically murdered during the Holocaust. As we honor the victims of this unprecedented atrocity, we should also renew our commitments to oppose prejudice and bigotry of any kind, to stand up for the oppressed, and to cherish and value the dignity of every person.
Representative Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said:
On this day of solemn remembrance and reflection, we in the Valley pause to honor the six million innocent Jewish lives lost during the Holocaust when man’s inhumanity to man was shockingly cruel. We stand united as one community and repeat the powerful phrase ‘never again.’
Here in Sherman Oaks and in Northridge, we have recently witnessed acts of anti-Semitism and symbols of bigotry in our neighborhoods. We as Valley residents must reject these expressions of hate and acts of intolerance. When our neighbors feel insecurity in their homes, we share in their unease and treat their worries as our own. Prejudice and bullying has no place in our midst. Through education and shared understanding, we must stamp out anti-Semitic and bigoted behavior, and ‘never again’ allow the spread of ignorant intolerance.
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) spoke on the House of Representatives floor, where she said:
I rise to honor the six million European Jews murdered by the Nazi regime during the Holocaust. Today, we join together to remember the victims who perished. We stand in solidarity with the people of Israel and around the world to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah.
Six million Jews were killed at the hands of the Nazis as a part of the “Final Solution” to eradicate all of Europe’s Jews, and countless others were brutalized, raped, dehumanized, and robbed. It is essential to listen and learn from the stories of the past, and to ensure that the experiences of the Holocaust are preserved as a permanent part of our history.
Too many times in history, people have stood by and allowed the targeting, brutalization, and massacre of an innocent civilian population. The 2012 theme of these Days of Remembrance, Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue, highlights the actions of several witnesses who risked severe punishment to help Jews to safety. These actions serve to remind us of the amazing power of individual choice to act in the face of injustice. The principle “Never Forget, Never Again.” is a commitment to fighting hatred, intolerance, and brutality through education, dialogue, and determination. We can honor those who died in the Holocaust by countering similar atrocities in the future.
Throughout these days of remembrance, we look back on the atrocities of the Holocaust, and we honor and mourn those who perished. It is equally important to remember the survivors and to learn from their experiences. As we move forward, it is imperative to preserve the past and to continue teaching the history of the Holocaust. We must commit today to fighting hatred and indifference in a world where genocide is an ever-present problem.