Gov. Rick Perry today ceremonially signed Senate Bill (SB) 482, which creates the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission to help preserve information and experiences of the Holocaust and other genocide events. The commission will work with organizations, agencies, museums, survivors and liberators to provide information and experiences and to coordinate memorial events in the state.
"As a state and nation, we are compelled to prevent future episodes of genocide and oppression by casting the light of truth on their history and educating our citizens on the circumstances that allow their occurrence," Gov. Perry said. "Ultimately, that truth, and the willingness to defend the vulnerable among us will lead to greater justice. I believe this bill is an important statement of the values we hold dear in this state- those of respecting human life and valuing freedom for all men and women."
The creation of this commission will give schools and organizations in smaller communities access to resources and information about the Holocaust and genocide that they would otherwise have little access to. The commission will consist of 18 members- 15 appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, with the commissioner of education, commissioner of higher education and executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission acting as ex-officio members.
"As a child of Holocaust survivors, I have lived the lessons of that horrific event all my life, but there are generations of people who have no access to the lessons and teachings of this historic tragedy," Sen. Florence Shapiro said. "The intolerance of that period remains a contemporary issue today that young people need to learn about. It is my hope that this legislation will help provide the information necessary to ensure that we never forget."
In addition to the Holocaust, there have been five major genocide events in the 20th century, including the Armenian, Cambodian, Rwandan, Bosnian and Herzegovinian, and Sudanese genocides. Survivors, liberators and others who witnessed these atrocities have died without leaving their lessons of survival and humanity. According to the Holocaust Museum Houston, six Holocaust survivors have died within the last six months in Houston alone.
"I am very proud to have authored this bill with my good friend Senator Shapiro. We must all stand up and recognize that genocide continues to take place all over the world. 64 years ago it was Eastern Europe. Today, it is Darfur," Sen. Rodney Ellis said. "The Holocaust and Genocide Commission is Texas' effort to ensure that our schools and communities have the resources they need to teach our kids and neighbors to do what is morally right when faced with such atrocities."
"This bill means that all communities and particularly rural areas across Texas will have the opportunity to learn about what can happen if good people do not stand up to be counted," Rep. Ellen Cohen said. "It will help educate young people, who will be the future leaders of their chamber of commerce, school board or Girl Scout troop, that while we may take exception to the views of others we can and must do so in a respectful and civil manner."
Gov. Perry continues to advocate for the human rights of oppressed people around the world. The governor has signed legislation calling for divestment of state funds that have a direct relationship to the atrocities happening in Sudan. The governor has also called for divestment of state funds from Iran, a main opponent of Israeli freedom.