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60th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Location: Washington, DC

(Senate - January 31, 2005)

Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, last week marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in southern Poland. On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops freed the prisoners at Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp. During that same period, our American troops were freeing prisoners at other death camps.

This year, the world noted the significance of this anniversary. On Monday, at the request of the United States, Canada, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and Russia, the United Nations held the first-ever General Assembly commemoration of the World War II Holocaust. Six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, including two-thirds of European Jews.

As we remember the many who suffered and died at Auschwitz and at the other concentration camps, we must not forget the lessons of the past. These awful events revealed what people can do to one another, and we can never forget what happened only 60 short years ago. In not forgetting, we must be careful that this form of genocide is never repeated. Even now, in too many countries, anti-Semitism is on the rise. The State Department recently released a report indicating it is gaining momentum in Europe and the Middle East. In a Wall Street Journal commentary, author Adam Zagajewski stated that there is ``a solid, murky stratum of anti-Semitism more and more perceptible in different European countries.'' The world must respond to this threat--before it is too late.

Here in the United States, we have always recognized the importance of religious freedom. Religious freedom is more than just religious tolerance--it is religious pluralism. We must not err on either extreme--either to impose one religion on all peoples or, what some would like to see in this country, to banish all expression of religion from the public square. Rather, we should welcome all religions and expressions of faith. This is the right on which our country was founded, and we must continue to allow people to worship as they please and freely live out their faith as good citizens.

In his well-known 1790 letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation, President George Washington wrote, ``The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess a like liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.''

This country has a history of encouraging faith. In 1948, as the Jewish community in Munich was still rebuilding after the end of World War II, local rabbis asked the United States Armed Forces for assistance in obtaining copies of the Talmud. The Nazis had tried to destroy all the copies of the Talmud during World War II and only a precious few were left to study. When requested by the local rabbis, the United States Armed Forces responded, and helped to publish 19 volumes of the Talmud for the use of the community, recognizing the great importance of the Talmud to rebuilding the displaced Jewish community in that region. The title page of the first volume of that new Talmud edition stated that it was published ``with the aid of the American Military Command and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Germany.'' It was dedicated to the ``United States Army,'' which provided the opportunity and the means for its publication. In this example, the United States Army reached out to help displaced persons, who had faced such terrible struggles to survive, to rebuild the community in that land, and it did so by encouraging their faith.

In like manner, we should encourage people to live out their faith, for it is faith that teaches us to respect the lives of those around us, to love our neighbors, and to care for one another. True religious freedom and pluralism does not mean that we will agree with our neighbor on our faith beliefs, but it does mean that we will fight for the right of our neighbor to freely believe what he or she thinks best.

Banishing religion from the public square will not result in respect for all but, rather, respect for a few. Ensuring that everyone is free to practice one's faith in one's own way is the correct way to build a culture that is respectful of differences and mindful of the needs of others. It is the way to ensure that Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and the other death camps are never repeated in other areas of the world.

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