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April 8, 2021 4:46 pm

US President Biden Leads International Tributes to Holocaust Victims and Survivors on Yom Hashoah

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U.S. President Joe Biden signs the American Rescue Plan, a package of economic relief measures to respond to the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, inside the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 11, 2021. Reuters/Tom Brenner

US President Joe Biden led international leaders in paying tribute to the victims of the Nazi Holocaust with a long and personal message for Yom Hashoah, the annual day of commemoration which began Wednesday night.

“The history of the Holocaust is forever seared into the history of humankind, and it is the shared responsibility of all people to ensure that the horrors of the Shoah can never be erased from our collective memory,” Biden wrote in an April 4 proclamation.

To prevent “a tragedy like the Holocaust from happening again,” Biden continued, “we must share the truth of this dark period with each new generation. All of us must understand the depravity that is possible when governments back policies fueled by hatred, when we dehumanize groups of people, and when ordinary people decide that it is easier to look away or go along than to speak out.”

The US President said he remembered “learning about the horrors of the Holocaust from my father when I was growing up, and I have sought to impart that history to my own children and grandchildren in turn.”

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Biden said he had “taken them on separate visits to Dachau, so that they could see for themselves what happened there, and to impress on them the urgency to speak out whenever they witness antisemitism or any form of ethnic and religious hatred, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia.”

Biden declared that the “legacy of the Holocaust must always remind us that silence in the face of such bigotry is complicity — remembering, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, that there are moments when ‘indifference to evil is worse than evil itself.'”

In video remarks presented Thursday at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Days of Remembrance Commemoration, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “we must stay vigilant” in the face of hatred and extremism, and of those who deny the history of the Holocaust.

“We remember to recognize the innate dignity of those killed and those who survived — something their killers sought to strip away with each dehumanizing act,” he said. “We remember that before those people were victims, they were girls and boys, women and men, with distinct lives and hopes.”

In Israel, meanwhile, President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top leaders attended a special ceremony at Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

In his comments, Rivlin expressed sorrow for those survivors of the Holocaust who died from the COVID-19 pandemic during the past year.

“They survived the ghettoes and the death camps, the immigrant ships and the internment camps,” Rivlin said. “But the final battle of their lives was fought with them bewildered and isolated, behind masks and gloves, yearning for contact but parted from their loved ones.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter, “Six million innocent Jewish children, women, and men were murdered during the Holocaust – on Yom HaShoah, we remember them. We also honour the survivors and their resilience, recognize those who risked their lives to save others, and vow: #NeverAgain.”

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