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Obama Commemorates Auschwitz Liberation

David Streeter — January 27, 2010 – 10:25 am | Barack Obama | Foreign Policy | Israel Comments (0) Add a comment

President Barack Obama commemorated the 65th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation this week by recording a video message to be played at the memorial ceremony in Poland. On why we commemorate this day, Obama stated:

‘We have a sacred duty to remember the twisted thinking that led here…’ and ‘we have a sacred duty to remember the cruelty that occurred here…’

And to the survivors who returned to the camp for the ceremony, Obama said:

... you-the survivors. The perpetrators of that crime tried to annihilate the entire Jewish people. But they failed. Because 65 years ago today, when the gates flew open, you were still standing. And every day that you have lived, every child and grandchild that your families have brought into the world with love, every day the sun rises on the Jewish state of Israel-that is the ultimate rebuke to the ignorance and hatred of this place. So to those of you who have come back today, I say, no, you are not ‘former prisoners.’ You are living memorials.

Obama’s video will accompany the official US delegation to the memorial service, which will be held at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. In addition, Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice delivered a speech at the Park East Synagogue in New York during last week’s Shabbat service. Rice remarked:

This week’s Torah portion speaks of the way that Pharoah hardened his heart to justify oppression. Today, we still face those who reject our common humanity to justify uncommon callousness. We still face those who see difference as a spur for spite rather than a source of strength. We still face those who deny the plain facts of history. We still face those who seek to ride the tide of malice and mistrust-those who make a career of hatred and division.

We may never find an end to oppression. But we will never stop trying to find one. Jewish tradition, after all, offers a simple and stern teaching that has inspired countless men and women to try to part the waters of injustice. Even those who are comfortable and prosperous are obliged to identify with the powerless and the desperate-to be voices of the voiceless-to see ourselves as if we personally had once been slaves to Pharoah, and to stand up for those who still endure the bite and burden of shackles from new oppressors today.

So in the early years of a new century, we must work together to apply the lessons of the last decade’s bitter succession of genocides. We must work together to mete out justice to the perpetrators. We must work together to build up the world’s capacity to respond surely and swiftly to mass slaughter. And we must work together to prevent conflict before an ember becomes a blaze.

We all know the greatest obstacle to swift action in the face of atrocities is, ultimately, political will. The hard truth is that stopping genocide requires more than just the wisdom to see a way to save innocents from the knives and the guns. It requires above all the courage and the compassion to act.



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