Remarks as delivered:
I will go through the protocol but let me just say I, I am particularly honored and touched to be in the presence of Holocaust survivors and also their descendants who’ve shared such incredible stories. Tonight, it is a pleasure to be able to speak with you.
On behalf of the Mission here in Bern, it is my honor to be present with you for this important commemoration and the U.S. Mission looks forward to continuing our collaboration. Each year, as we know, we come together to honor the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust and to share the couragous stories of the survivors and their descendants. It’s especially painful to know that 1.5 million of those killed were children. Remembering victims and memorializing the survivors’ stories is part of a moral responsibility to never forget.
There’s a sobering quote from Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel that underscores just how important it’s for us to share all of this information, the stories, with future generations. He said, “to forget the dead would be akin to killing him a second time.” That to me, is why we’re here in this school today to share these profound memories and messages with the next generation.
It is our moral imperative to remember what happened, to talk about it. In keeping their memories alive, we make our world a better place and we push back the darkness of discrimination, hate, and ignorance. Antisemitism is on the rise, and it’s evolving in really nefarious ways. President Biden from the United States has made clear that antisemitism has no place in the United States of America, or in the rest of the world. He’s called on all in the United States to forcefully reject antisemitism, including holocaust denial wherever it may exist.
We must reject attempts to ignore, to deny, to distort, and to revise history. That’s why the United States co-sponsored a United Nations resolution last year that charged the international community, with combating holocaust denial of education.
The U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism has been supporting this effort too, helping to ensure that the issue is top of mind for leaders and populations around the world. It’s so important that we recognize the true perpetrators of hate around the world and their efforts to distort the truth.
President Putin falsely claimed, for example, that he invaded Ukraine to de-nazify the country. Hitler used lies to foment and perpetrate hate against the Jewish people. These tactics of leveraging lies to perpetrate violence reminds of how dangerous and how quickly antisemitism and racism can be used against communities, countries, and the globe overall.
It’s all the more heartbreaking for Holocaust survivors in Ukraine to be forced to endure the war for a second time in their lives again, today. However, this war has also reminded us that the international community can and must stand together to be a force for peace, for hope, and for humanity – now, as we were then.
The United States is proud to do our part, and with the help of the US Public Broadcasting service, our embassies around the world are raising awareness and spreading knowledge by sharing a new documentary series, “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” that explores the perspective of the U.S. response to the Holocaust through stories of those who lived through it and to save it for future generations. We hope that this very small contribution has an outsized impact in encouraging young people, like so many of you here today and the young person we heard from earlier tonight, to become leaders and vocal advocates for peace and human rights.
As I said, I’ve been so personally touched and inspired by the accounts of the innovative attempts to educate, to outreach, and to keep the memory alive. Tonight, the stories and Holocaust survivors remind us that despite profound challenges, the strength of our humanity endures. I hope that you and all the next generation will join in the efforts to combat hate and to build a more inclusive and just future. Because the future, the young generation can make a difference in schools and communities and combat discrimination and hatred, which only flourishes when good people stay silent.
This speech was given at Gymnasium Neufeld in Bern on January 26, 2022.