The Holocaust Remembered at the State Department

January 30, 2013 8:39 am 0 comments

From left to right, a panel that discussed history's implications for future behavior at the State Department on Monday: Father Patrick Desbois, president of Yahad-In Unum; Suzanne Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ambassador Douglass Davidson, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; Victoria Holt, Deputy Assistant Secretary at the State Department; and moderator Ambassador Michael Kozak, interim Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

WASHINGTON, DC - A city accustomed to House and Senate hearings witnessed a different kind of testimony on Monday.

Father Patrick Desbois, president of the Yahad-In Unum (YIU) Association of France, has undertaken the mission to investigate the mass executions of Jews and Roma between 1941 and 1944. He has located the graves of more than 1 million Jews at 68 sites throughout Eastern Europe.

Desbois spoke on Monday at the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, during the government’s marking of United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

“These killings took place in public,” he said. “It was like a show. Children were taken to watch the shooting of the Jews.”

At the State Department’s George C. Marshall Auditorium, Ambassador Michael Kozak—interim Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism—led a panel discussion on history’s implications for future behavior. The panel also included Father Desbois, Suzanne Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ambassador Douglass Davidson, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; and Victoria Holt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department.

Brown-Fleming, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the national Holocaust museum, said the former Soviet Union’s demise made thousands of Holocaust documents accessible. The museum has rescued many. Since 2005, it has worked with Yahad-In Unum to raise greater awareness about the Eastern European tragedies.

“Scholars are reconstructing the crimes,” Brown-Fleming said. “This was a personal Holocaust: neighbor to neighbor. What is the core moral dilemma of the Holocaust? Do I become a participant, a killer, or a rescuer?”

“Every victim was killed by someone—it was a personal crime,” she said.

“Looking at the contemporary examples of Holocaust by bullet, we are convinced that we cannot build democracy on [unrecognized] mass graves,” Brown-Fleming continued. “Killing by machine guns in the forest is being repeated in Darfur, in Cambodia. Bullets, not camps, are the repeated method of death.”

Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, speaks at a special event on “Children and the Holocaust”, held to mark the annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, on Jan. 27, 2012. Photo: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz.

The State Department’s Holt said the challenge regarding the Holocaust and contemporary genocide “is to channel the horror into the productive.”

“Building a culture of remembrance helps prevent repetition of the crimes of the past,” Brown-Fleming said. “The lessons of history must be learned and applied to prevent its repeat.”

Holt believes that process has begun, but that further action must be taken.

“It is the nature of the diplomatic culture to be cautious… the first step is to bring the stories to the front, making it public… The challenge is to learn to handle the crisis before it occurs,” she said. “Not every country or every group turns to violence.”

Father Desbois’s research is extensive and growing. He is preparing an interactive Google map designed to tell the story of each Eastern European village where executions took place.

“The big difference now is that you can take a picture and expose it…. There is a new generation [of people] who want to know, both inside and outside of Europe, including in China and India,” he said. “They understand the implications of the lessons of the Holocaust.”

The UN in 2005 designated Jan. 27 as a yearly memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust—6 million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi Germany during World War II. The date honors the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps.

On Sunday in Rome, the German-born Pope Benedict XVI, appearing at his window in the Vatican, called for vigilance against racism.

“The memory of this immense tragedy, which above all struck so harshly the Jewish people, must represent for everyone a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated, so that every form of hatred and racism is overcome, and that respect for, and dignity of, every human person is encouraged,” the Pope said of the Holocaust.

“The United States, along with the international community, resolves to stand in the way of any tyrant or dictator who commits crimes against humanity, and stay true to the principle of ‘Never Again,’” U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a clear link to Iran’s nuclear efforts and the Nazis’ efforts to annihilate the Jews.

“Anti-Semitism has not disappeared and—to our regret—neither has the desire to destroy a considerable part of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. They exist and they are strong,” Netanyahu said.

On Jan. 25, speaking in a voice fraught with emotion at the UN General Assembly in New York, Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor proclaimed, “The loss [of the Holocaust] is unimaginable… the riches lost to the world untold. But, their spirit lives on, their dreams never died… Nothing can break the 5,000-year-old chain of Jewish history.”

Looking to his own emotions, Prosor noted that he is a father of the generation for whom it is “incomprehensible to comprehend what it meant to be a Jew in the face of evil” without the protection provided by the Jewish state.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum’s “Righteous Among the Nations” recognition for gentiles who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, greeting those gathered in memory of the victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 25, said “the examples of these brave men and women demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good even in the darkest days…”

Ban also stressed the need to “work against hatred and prejudice to prevent future genocide.”

Ron Prosor (right), Permanent Representative of Israel to the UN, chats with Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Senior Rabbi at Park East Synagogue in New York, before an event at UN Headquarters on "Children and the Holocaust", held to mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Between Mr. Prosor and Rabbi Schneier, is famed psychotherapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Photo: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine.

Prosor acknowledged the sparks that lit humanity’s darkest hours—Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, Italian construction worker Lorenzo Perrone, and the Japanese Consul in Lithuania, Sugihara, calling their actions “inspiring stories that must become guide posts for the international community… There is much work to do in a world… where hate is met with silence.”

The state of Israel is a living, breathing monument to survival, stated the ambassador. “Am Yisrael chai!” he extolled.

Also recognized was the courageous Irena Sandler, a Polish Catholic nurse who saved 2,500 children, and Eli Zborowski, who survived the war in hiding and was the driving force behind the creation of Yad VaShem’s Valley of the Communities as well as a founder of the American Society of Yad VaShem.

Mordecai Palodiel, a Holocaust survivor who spoke at the UN, was 6 years old when he and his family escaped to Switzerland. He was instrumental in gaining acknowledgement for the non-Jewish heroes who risked their lives to save at least one Jewish person. Palodiel helped develop the Garden of the Righteous. Fifty years after its initiation, some 25,000 names are inscribed in its stones, each representing a commitment to help others in need despite the risk to themselves.

“We have an obligation to pass on to future generations the legacy of the Righteous Among the Nations and the lesson of the spark of goodness the individual can arouse within himself,” he said.

A city accustomed to House and Senate hearings witnessed a different kind of testimony on Monday.

Father Patrick Desbois, president of the Yahad-In Unum (YIU) Association of France, has undertaken the mission to investigate the mass executions of Jews and Roma between 1941 and 1944. He has located the graves of more than 1 million Jews at 68 sites throughout Eastern Europe.

Desbois spoke on Monday at the U.S. State Department in Washington, DC, during the government’s marking of United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

These killings took place in public,” he said. “It was like a show. Children were taken to watch the shooting of the Jews.”

At the State Department’s George C. Marshall Auditorium, Ambassador Michael Kozak—interim Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism—led a panel discussion on history’s implications for future behavior. The panel also included Father Desbois, Suzanne Brown-Fleming of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; Ambassador Douglass Davidson, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues; and Victoria Holt, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the State Department.

Brown-Fleming, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the national Holocaust museum, said the former Soviet Union’s demise made thousands of Holocaust documents accessible. The museum has rescued many. Since 2005, it has worked with Yahad-In Unum to raise greater awareness about the Eastern European tragedies.

Scholars are reconstructing the crimes,” Brown-Fleming said. “This was a personal Holocaust: neighbor to neighbor. What is the core moral dilemma of the Holocaust? Do I become a participant, a killer, or a rescuer?”

Every victim was killed by someone—it was a personal crime,” she said.

Looking at the contemporary examples of Holocaust by bullet, we are convinced that we cannot build democracy on [unrecognized] mass graves,” Brown-Fleming continued. “Killing by machine guns in the forest is being repeated in Darfur, in Cambodia. Bullets, not camps, are the repeated method of death.”

The State Department’s Holt said the challenge regarding the Holocaust and contemporary genocide “is to channel the horror into the productive.”

Building a culture of remembrance helps prevent repetition of the crimes of the past,” Brown-Fleming said. “The lessons of history must be learned and applied to prevent its repeat.”

Holt believes that process has begun, but that further action must be taken.

It is the nature of the diplomatic culture to be cautious… the first step is to bring the stories to the front, making it public… The challenge is to learn to handle the crisis before it occurs,” she said. “Not every country or every group turns to violence.”

Father Desbois’s research is extensive and growing. He is preparing an interactive Google map designed to tell the story of each Eastern European village where executions took place.

The big difference now is that you can take a picture and expose it…. There is a new generation [of people] who want to know, both inside and outside of Europe, including in China and India,” he said. “They understand the implications of the lessons of the Holocaust.”

The UN in 2005 designated Jan. 27 as a yearly memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust—6 million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi Germany during World War II. The date honors the anniversary of the 1945 liberation of Auschwitz, the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps.

On Sunday in Rome, the German-born Pope Benedict XVI, appearing at his window in the Vatican, called for vigilance against racism.

The memory of this immense tragedy, which above all struck so harshly the Jewish people, must represent for everyone a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated, so that every form of hatred and racism is overcome, and that respect for, and dignity of, every human person is encouraged,” the Pope said of the Holocaust.

The United States, along with the international community, resolves to stand in the way of any tyrant or dictator who commits crimes against humanity, and stay true to the principle of ‘Never Again,’” U.S. President Barack Obama said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a clear link to Iran’s nuclear efforts and the Nazis’ efforts to annihilate the Jews.

Anti-Semitism has not disappeared and—to our regret—neither has the desire to destroy a considerable part of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. They exist and they are strong,” Netanyahu said.

On Jan. 25, speaking in a voice fraught with emotion at the UN General Assembly in New York, Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor proclaimed, “The loss [of the Holocaust] is unimaginable… the riches lost to the world untold. But, their spirit lives on, their dreams never died… Nothing can break the 5,000-year-old chain of Jewish history.”

Looking to his own emotions, Prosor noted that he is a father of the generation for whom it is “incomprehensible to comprehend what it meant to be a Jew in the face of evil” without the protection provided by the Jewish state.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum’s “Righteous Among the Nations” recognition for gentiles who helped save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, greeting those gathered in memory of the victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 25, said “the examples of these brave men and women demonstrate the capacity of humankind for remarkable good even in the darkest days…”

Ban also stressed the need to “work against hatred and prejudice to prevent future genocide.”

Prosor acknowledged the sparks that lit humanity’s darkest hours—Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, Italian construction worker Lorenzo Perrone, and the Japanese Consul in Lithuania, Sugihara, calling their actions “inspiring stories that must become guide posts for the international community… There is much work to do in a world… where hate is met with silence.”

The state of Israel is a living, breathing monument to survival, stated the ambassador. “Am Yisrael chai!” he extolled.

Also recognized was the courageous Irena Sandler, a Polish Catholic nurse who saved 2,500 children, and Eli Zborowski, who survived the war in hiding and was the driving force behind the creation of Yad VaShem’s Valley of the Communities as well as a founder of the American Society of Yad VaShem.

Mordecai Palodiel, a Holocaust survivor who spoke at the UN, was 6 years old when he and his family escaped to Switzerland. He was instrumental in gaining acknowledgement for the non-Jewish heroes who risked their lives to save at least one Jewish person. Palodiel helped develop the Garden of the Righteous. Fifty years after its initiation, some 25,000 names are inscribed in its stones, each representing a commitment to help others in need despite the risk to themselves.

We have an obligation to pass on to future generations the legacy of the Righteous Among the Nations and the lesson of the spark of goodness the individual can arouse within himself,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Sports US & Canada Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    Israeli-American Group Congratulates Cavaliers’ Blatt on Reaching NBA Finals

    JNS.org – An organization whose work focuses on the estimated population of 500,000-800,000 Israeli Americans congratulated David Blatt, the Jewish head coach of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Cleveland Cavaliers and a longtime Israel-based coach, for clinching an appearance in the NBA Finals. The Israeli-American Council (IAC), whose stated mission is “to build an active and giving Israeli-American community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next generation, and to provide a bridge to [...]

    Read more →
  • Food US & Canada Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Bacon Flavor Ben & Jerry’s ‘Not Gonna Happen’ Because it Wouldn’t be Kosher

    Famed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s will not be introducing a Bacon flavored product to its offerings because the company intends to keep its entire line kosher, Marketing Director Alison Gilbert told AOL’s morning show Rise recently. “It’s kind of funny, a lot of people look for bacon in our ice cream, which is probably not gonna happen because all of our ice cream is kosher,” she said, referring to Jewish dietary restrictions that proscribe the consumption of pig [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli Judo Team Faces Antisemitic Harassment in Morocco: ‘We Will Murder You’

    Israeli athletes at a world Judo championship in Morocco reportedly faced antisemitic slurs during the competition, news site WorldNetDaily reported on Monday. “We will murder you,” and “you’re not wanted here, go home,” were among the vituperative attacks directed at the Israeli Judo Association team, which was in Morocco last week for the World Masters Judo Tournament. According to Haaretz, each Israeli teammate was met with boos and jeers upon entering a fight. Additionally, no Israeli flags were present at [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Lady Gaga Accepts ADL Award: ‘Your Philosophies Are So in Line With Ours’ (VIDEO)

    Pop superstar Lady Gaga on Thursday accepted an award from Jewish human rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of her Born This Way Foundation, which strives to combat bullying among young people. “Your philosophies are so in line with ours,” she said of the ADL upon accepting the Making a Difference Award in a videotaped message, which was shown at a ceremony in New York City. “We want to help young people know that their feelings and who they are on [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    At 80, Singer-Songwriter Leonard Cohen’s Jewish Roots ‘Very Much Intact’

    JNS.org – Eighty years young, Leonard Cohen fits many descriptions—singer, songwriter, poet, novelist, monk. From his Jewish upbringing in Canada to the present day, Cohen has always explored his spiritual side. This month, the singer-songwriter released the CD (May 12) and iTunes (on May 8 of this year) formats of his latest album, Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour, which features live recordings from his world tours in 2012 and 2013. Last year, Cohen’s Popular Problems was voted by Rolling Stone [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    FIFA Head Says Israel Should Not be Booted From World Soccer Association

    JNS.org – Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) head Sepp Blatter said during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that contrary to Palestinian complaints, Israel has not violated any FIFA statutes and should not be suspended from international soccer’s governing body. “We should not come to one federation saying we will exclude them,” said Blatter, the Jerusalem Post reported. “If the national association is fulfilling its obligations then there is no need to intervene,” he said. “I’m on a [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Middle East Sports Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish Rights Group Slams Palestinian Attempts to Suspend Israel From FIFA

    Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) said on Tuesday it was “appalled” by a Palestinian Football Association initiative to suspend Israel from FIFA, calling it another “front waged in the context of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.” “We are appalled at the temerity of the Palestinan Football Association (PFA) demand that FIFA suspend Israel at your forthcoming Congress in Zurich,” wrote the group’s international relations director, Dr. Shimon Samuels, in a letter to FIFA President Joseph [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    Star of Auschwitz Thriller Says ‘God Was Holding the Hand of Every Jew in the Gas Chamber’ (VIDEO)

    The lead actor in Son of Saul, an Auschwitz thriller featured at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, told the UK’s The Guardian that he believes God was “holding the hand” of each Jew who died in the Nazi gas chambers during the Holocaust. “I do not for one nanosecond like to pretend that God is off the hook. He could and should have stopped it at a much earlier stage,” Géza Röhrig, 48, said. ”But I would not be able to get [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.