Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Miramar) joined others around the world in honoring the victims of the Holocaust, in recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day during the Days of Remembrance:
"One of the worst atrocities in human history, the Holocaust was a state-sponsored, systematic persecution and annihilation of European Jewry at the hands of Nazi Germany and its collaborators between 1933 and 1945. By the end of the Second World War, six million Jews had been murdered. Yet, these were not the only ones targeted for elimination. Millions of Roma, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, political dissidents, and individuals with disabilities were all persecuted under Nazi occupation. Established by the United States Congress, the Days of Remembrance honor the lives of those who suffered and died during the Holocaust.
"This year's theme for the Days of Remembrance is Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue. A number of individuals chose to become involved as they witnessed the persecution and murder of their friends and neighbors. Rather than comply with the brutal laws of the Nazis, many individuals in war-torn Europe intervened to help save the lives of others. Often, this choice was made despite the risk of severe punishment, and even death. I was proud this week to vote in favor of legislation honoring one such heroic individual, Raoul Wallenberg, with a Congressional Gold Medal, a man who saved so many people, but whose own fate remains unknown.
"The stories of individuals such as Raoul Wallenberg continue to both inspire and astound. The Talmud teaches that to save one life is to save the world, and so the stories of individuals who took action to rescue their fellow citizens are also stories of ordinary people saving entire worlds. For example, Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker, was tortured and faced execution after she aided in the smuggling of over 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw ghetto. Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, is credited with saving over 1,100 Jews by employing them in his factories. In another extraordinary story of rescue, an entire community of Greek Jews was saved through the efforts of two men, Mayor Loukas Karrer and Greek Orthodox Bishop Chrysostomos. Over 23,000 'Righteous Gentiles' testify to the fact that the spark of humanity can exist even amidst great brutality in the darkest of times.
"This week, and indeed all throughout the year, we must remember those whose lives were lost during the Holocaust. Let us continue to recognize the importance of freedom and human rights, and the sanctity of human dignity. As we remember the unthinkable consequences of what can occur when hate and intolerance are allowed to run rampant, let us also be motivated by the stories of individuals who risked all to confront injustice and genocide."
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Senior Member of the House Rules Committee, Ranking Democratic Member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Democratic Chairman of the Florida Delegation.