Former President Bill Clinton, speaking Apr. 29 at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s 20th anniversary commemoration, warned that the Holocaust’s “sickness is very much alive today”.
Clinton said that it “allowed bombings at the Boston marathon…It allowed a Pakistani girl to get shot because she wanted to go to school…and an Indian girl to get raped on a bus in New Delhi while others stood by…” (Pakistani Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban last October, and a 23-year-old Indian woman, gang-raped last December, died of her injuries in January.)
“The virus takes different forms today, but it’s the virus that led to the slaughter of Jews,” Clinton told the audience at the museum’s two-day National Tribute to Holocaust Survivors and World War II Veterans.
He said “the historic suffering and slaughter of the Holocaust represents a human disease that makes some people think that our differences are more important than our common humanity.”
The former President termed that “the biggest threat to…reaping the full benefit of an interdependent world.”
He added, “You know the truth — it is enshrined here” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Speaking especially to the audience’s many younger people, “You must do all you can to give this truth to all humankind.”
President Clinton was joined by Nobel Peace Laureate and author Elie Wiesel in addressing today’s audience of more than 2,000 people, which included 843 Holocaust survivors and 130 World War II veterans. Clinton and Wiesel together dedicated the museum in 1993.
Wiesel, like Clinton at the 20th anniversary event, called for “dedication to the truth” and urged young people, “Now, you must be messengers.” Most of the survivors and liberators of the concentration camps are in their 70s and 80s.
The daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Lisa Zaid, told the audience that the survivors’ “lives will always be honored by us. We’ll never forget you or the beautiful families from which you came. You’ll always have a home here” at the museum. It has had 35 million visitors in its first 20 years.
Zaid, like all participants in the extremely moving program, thanked World War II veterans “for your service not just to our country, but to the higher moral cause.”
Speakers also recognized civilian rescuers, including several who stood to accept thundering applause. One was a Pole who hid Jews in his home, and did not disclose their identity even to his parents. Another was a Frenchman who helped hundreds of Jews escape to safety.
The museum’s Elie Wiesel Award went to Wladyslaw Bartoszewski on behalf of all rescuers, who joined Poland’s resistance movement after being imprisoned in Auschwitz for six months. Bartoszewski provided a leading role in assistance to Jews, including during the April 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Praising such action, Wiesel, the museum’s founding director and a Holocaust survivor, admonished, “Fear what humanity has done to itself when people have failed to act.”
The museum launched a $540 million fundraising campaign, with the slogan “Never Again: What You Do Matters”.
For more info: National Tribute to Holocaust Survivors and World War II Veterans, www.neveragain.ushmm.org, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, www.ushmm.org, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, S.W., Washington, D.C. 1-866-998-7466. “Never Again: What You Do Matters” $540 million campaign. Timeline of the museum, http://neveragain.ushmm.org/timeline.