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Public Statements

Calling for Dignity, Comfort, and Support for Holocaust Survivors

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to offer House Concurrent Resolution 323, Ensuring that Holocaust Survivors Live with Dignity, Comfort, and Security. This important resolution recognizes the plight of Holocaust survivors, honors their unique needs, and pledges to help survivors attain the utmost comfort and well-being in their remaining years. And I want to thank my colleague from Virginia (Mr. Wolf) for cosponsoring it with me.

At the end of World War II, the Jewish population of Europe had been decimated through brutal, systematic annihilation by the Nazis. The atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi regime against Jews, Roma, the disabled, and other minority populations introduced a level of inhumanity previously unknown to this world. The Holocaust is a stain on our history which our society has pledged to never forget lest we risk repeating the barbarity of the past. The Jewish population around the world is still grieving from the loss of 6 million.

In the wake of this incomparable human destruction, thousands of survivors immigrated to America. Here, they hoped to secure a better future for themselves and their children. Escaping a ravaged Europe, survivors saw our Nation as a global example of freedom, liberty, and justice. They left the wreckage of the Holocaust and sought comfort on our shores. These brave survivors, who faced the terror of concentration camps, the trauma of fleeing Nazi occupation, and the grief of losing so many loved ones, embraced the American dream, raised families, and enriched our Nation and society in fields ranging from academia to medicine, art and government. Our country is stronger for their contributions, and our children have learned so much from the experiences of Holocaust survivors.

Now, more than 70 years later, there is more we can and must do to ensure that those who survived such atrocities live out their remaining years in peace. There are more than 127,000 Holocaust survivors still living in our Nation today, with more than three-quarters of them older than age 75, and a majority in their eighties and nineties. Roughly two-thirds of all survivors in America live alone, and many lack the financial resources for the most basic necessities, including proper housing and health care. In fact, a majority of Holocaust survivors fall below 200 percent of the Federal poverty line, equivalent to $21,660 per year, making this fragile community most at risk for being forced into a group living situation.

It is a little known tragedy that so many survivors of the death camps have aged in poverty and destitution in the United States. As a Nation that so strongly upholds the values of freedom and justice, we have a moral obligation to acknowledge the plight of these survivors and uphold their dignity to ensure their well-being in their remaining years. It is vital that we help this population, as a testament to what they have endured, and to fulfill the promise of justice that they sought in the United States.

As victims of terror and torture, these survivors have special needs that would benefit from the further development of social service programs to allow survivors to age in place in their current residences. Institutionalized settings, while appropriate and even beneficial for many older Americans, have a disproportionately adverse effect on Holocaust survivors, as these environments reintroduce the sights, sounds, and routines reminiscent of experiences during the Holocaust.

It is impossible for us to imagine the traumatic nightmares that survivors still experience. That is why it is so important for us to help this particular population secure alternatives to institutionalization such as aging in place, which may be more appropriate for a Holocaust survivor.

In introducing this legislation, we applaud those organizations that have already dedicated their tireless efforts to honoring and assisting Holocaust survivors in their communities across the country. These organizations strive every day to improve the difficult situations facing survivors in our communities. It is important that in coming years Congress work with the administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to provide Holocaust survivors with needed social services through existing programs, such as at the Administration on Aging.

It is fortuitous that this resolution comes to the floor the same week that we celebrate Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights. This holiday is a time to dedicate ourselves to the ideals of justice. At a time of year when people of all backgrounds are exchanging gifts, we must remember those in our society who have had so much taken from them in their lifetimes. We must share these stories and proclaim these lessons in public, that ours is a Nation of freedom and justice for all.

Our children's generation will be the last to know Holocaust survivors and hear their stories firsthand. We must do all we can to honor their struggles and their lives by granting them the utmost peace in their remaining years.

I want to thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their strong support; 102 Members are cosponsors of this resolution.


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