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Commending Countries and Organizations for Marking 60th Anniversary of Liberation of Auschwitz

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOLT. Madam Speaker, I rise to join my colleagues in support of H. Con. Res. 16, which commemorates the 60th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Yesterday, I went to New York to attend the United Nations first commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz. It was an incredible day-the first of its kind. It gave me hope that we, as a world, may be learning lessons so desperately needed.

Among other things, yesterday's General Assembly session was a reminder that we, as a country and a world community, must not forget the battles we have waged in the name of humanity. This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the horrors that occurred at Auschwitz, and to commemorate the lives of those it took. But it is more than that. That, I suppose, is something we all know.

Hearing the stories of Auschwitz is difficult. It is tempting to want to avoid these horrific memories-to bury the Holocaust deep, so that it will not haunt us. But understanding the immeasurable wrongs the Jewish people have endured-and the scale on which they occurred-is vital to understanding our world today. It is also vital to understanding the depravity of which human beings, when hardened to others' suffering, are capable. It is only through the process of acknowledging and discussing these horrific events that we can prevent similar iniquity in the future.

Anniversaries, as I have said, give rise to reflection. But understanding our past and respecting each other's differences have never been more vital that they are today. Distrust, misunderstanding, and hate have found fertile ground in many parts of the world. We see it in the Sudan, for example. We must meet this challenge by demanding that all world leaders anticipate, understand, and address the issues that emerge from poverty, injustice, militarism, and racism. A good speech can move its audience, but speech without action does nothing for those who most need the words to mean something.

As U.N. Secretary General Kofi Anan reminded us yesterday, in the 60 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the world has failed more than once to prevent genocide. As we look around the world today, we must open our eyes to the many horrific examples of inhumanity that we are allowing to continue. The Secretary General recounted the history and pointed out that like Israel, the founding of the United Nations in a real sense was a direct response to the Holocaust.

The international community must deal honestly with the Holocaust and with the atrocities that are occurring at this very moment. We must acknowledge its roots, and anti-Semitism persist in too many places around the globe. World leaders must shake themselves out of indifference and rise above political considerations. They must use their position to combat the intolerance that has been allowed to fester for too long. Without an honest assessment and vigilant commitment, we fail to learn the lessons of Auschwitz and prevent the recurrence of these crimes against humanity.

I urge my colleagues to do more than vote for this resolution today. We must work within our communities and across borders to foster respect for all people and deepen understanding of other cultures. We must reach out to the organizations and community groups that teach values such as tolerance and diversity to our young people. We must challenge the seeds of hate before they take root, even when it means confronting our friends. Failing to take these steps is more than a moral failing on our part. It is a failure to make good on the promise we made at Auschwitz six decades ago.

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