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Public Statements

Statement by Sen. Cantwell on Holocaust Memorial Day

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day, known in Hebrew as "Yom Ha Shoa."

Seventy years ago, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. In 1933, the German government adopted numerous discriminatory policies against Jews. Jews were prohibited from working as newspaper editors or owning land, and many Jewish immigrants had their citizenship revoked. These actions fueled anti-semitic sentiments among the general public. Seventy years ago this month, German citizens marched through the streets of Leipzig with signs that read: "Don't buy from Jews - Shop in German businesses!"

It was a dark time for Germany, but many throughout the world thought that the situation would improve. The 1936 Olympic Games were held in Berlin, even against the backdrop of the rise of Hitler, the Gestapo, state-sponsored Aryan qualifications and the construction of the first concentration camps at Dachau and Buchenwald. In 1939, Jews were relocated into Jewish ghettos, placed under curfews and banned from most professions. The world still ignored the problem; in May of that year, a ship packed with 930 Jewish refugees was turned away by several countries and forced to return to Europe. Mr. President, one of those countries was the United States.

By late 1939, Polish Jews were forcibly placed in labor camps and required to wear yellow stars for identification at all times. Mass killings - called pogroms - took tens of thousands of lives, and Jews from conquered states were deported to German concentration camps. Following the German invasion, France signed an armistice with Hitler on June 22, 1940. Exactly one year later, Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

All the while, the world ignored the extermination of the Jewish people, and the United States wrapped itself in the flawed doctrine of isolationism. It took far too long for our nation to grasp its responsibility and stake in World War II. When the war ended, Germany had murdered over six million Jews in the Holocaust. Pastor Martin Niemöller described his reluctance to stand up and help people in Germany, and I believe his critique can apply to individuals and countries:

"First they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Mr. President, today we remember those who suffered. We remember those who were murdered. We remember those who spoke out. We will never forget them. This history informs the difficult choices that we face today.

Thank you, I yield the floor.

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