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Holocaust Remembrance Day

Location: Washington, DC

HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY -- (House of Representatives - May 05, 2005)

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, today is Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hashoah.

This is an appropriate date for this purpose because it is the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. But in reality, Americans and all other civilized people should consider every day a Holocaust Remembrance Day because forgetting the evils of the past can too easily be the prelude to their recurrence.

And never was this truer than this year, as we mark the 60th anniversary of the final days of the Second World War when Allied soldiers moving across Europe encountered and liberated concentration camp prisoners.

Advancing from the west, U.S. divisions freed the prisoners in the Dora-Mittelbau, Buchenwald, Flossenbu 4rg, and Dachau concentration camps in Germany and the Mauthausen camp in Austria. In northern Germany, British forces liberated Bergen-Belsen and Neuengamme. And Soviet troops, after liberating Auschwitz in Poland in January 1945, in May, 1945 liberated the Stutthof, Sachsenhausen, and Ravensbru 4ck concentration camps inside Germany.

We now understand that many people in Allied countries had known, in greater or lesser detail, about what had occurred in the camps. But it was these Allied soldiers who fully exposed the full horror of Nazi atrocities--and the combat-hardened soldiers were unprepared for what they found.

There were stacks of dead bodies, and barracks filled with dead and dying prisoners, while the stench of death was everywhere. And the camps still housed thousands of emaciated and diseased prisoners who resembled skeletons because of forced labor and lack of food. Many were so weak that they could hardly move. Disease remained an ever present danger and the liberators had to burn down many of the camps to prevent the spread of epidemics.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower made a deliberate visit to the Ohrdruf camp in order to witness personally the evidence of atrocities that ``beggar description.'' Publicly expressing shock and revulsion, he urged others to see the camps first-hand, lest ``the stories of Nazi brutality'' be forgotten or dismissed as merely ``propaganda.''

In the years that have followed, our memories of these atrocities have sometimes dimmed. But they have been refreshed by new histories or exhibits such as those in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum here in Washington, while new barbarities in other parts of the world have reawakened some of the horror that was felt by Eisenhower and the other liberators of Europe.

And the sights and sounds of the liberated camps, so fresh in 1945, helped shape the laws and institutions that arose from the ashes of war.

Military tribunals prosecuted captured Nazi officials under a variety of charges, many of which paralleled what were later defined as ``crimes against humanity.'' The best-known of these prosecutions, of course, were those in Nuremberg, Germany, between November 1945 and August 1946 under the auspices of the International Military Tribunal (IMT). Prosecutors and judges from the 4 occupying powers tried some of the leading officials of the Nazi regime on four counts, including a newly defined count of ``crimes against humanity,'' in which significant evidence relating to the Nazi effort to murder the European Jews was introduced. Several prominent Nazis were sentenced to death, others received prison sentences, and a few were acquitted.

The Nuremberg trials, and others that followed, have had a major impact on international law over the last 60 years. The International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the recently created International Criminal Court are all part of the legacy of Nuremberg and of ongoing efforts of the world community to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.

Today, on this Day of Remembrance, we should all look back to the horrors of the Holocaust. But we must also look at the world around us and ahead to what is to come.

If there had been any doubt, the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, like the killing fields in Cambodia and so many other terrible events, made it clear that we have not reached the end of history--or the end of violence driven by fanaticism. As we struggle to respond to the challenges of our time, we must remember the need for eternal vigilance against those who are prepared to sacrifice others in the name of what they perceive as some transcendent cause.

Our fate, and the fate of humanity, depends on our remembering and our understanding.

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