“And to them I will give my house and with
my walls a memorial and a name, an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
Pres. Peres. PM Netanyahu, Chairman Shalev, Rabbi Lau, thank you for sharing this house,
this memorial with me today. Thank you the people of Israel for preserving the names
of the millions taken from us, of blessed memory, names that shall never be forgotten.
This is my second visit to this living memorial. Since then I’ve walked among the barbed wire,
the guard towers, of Buchenwald. Rabbi Lau, told me of his time there, and we reminisced
about our good friend Eli Wiesel and the memories that he shared with me. I’ve stood in the
old Warsaw ghetto with survivors who would not go quietly.
But nothing equals the wrenching power of this sacred place where the totality of the
Shoah is told. We could come here a thousand times and each time our hearts would break.
For here we see the depravity to which man can sink, the barbarism that unfolds when
we begin to see our fellow human beings as somehow less than us, less worthy of dignity,
and of life. We see how evil can for a moment in time triumph;
when good people do nothing, how silence abetting a crime unique in human history.
Here we see their faces and we hear their voices. We look upon the objects of their
lives, the art that they created, the prayer books that they carried.
We see that even as they had hate etched into their arms, they were not numbers, they were
men, and women and children, so many children, sent to their deaths because of who they were,
how they prayed or who they loved. And yet here alongside man’s capacity for evil we
also are reminded of man’s capacity for good. The rescuers, the Righteous Among Nations
who refused to be bystanders, and in their noble acts of courage, we see how this place,
this accounting of horror, is in the end a source of hope , for here we learn that we
are never powerless, in our lives we always have choices. To succumb to our worst instincts,
or to summon the better angels of our nature, to be indifferent to suffering wherever it
may be, whoever it may be visited upon, or to display empathy that is at the core of
our humanity, we have a choice to acquiesce to evil or to make real our solemn vow never
again. We have a choice to ignore what happens to others or to act on behalf of others and
to continually examine in ourselves, whatever dark places there may be that might lead to
such actions or inactions. This is our obligation, not simply to bear witness, but to act. For
us in our time, this means confronting bigotry and hatred in all its forms, racism, especially
antisemitism. None of that has a place in the civilized world, not in the classrooms
of children, not in the corridors of power, and let us never forget the link between the
two. For our sons and daughters are not born to hate. They are taught to hate. So let us
fill their young hearts with the same understanding and compassion that we hope others have for
them. Here we hope, because after we walk through these halls, after you pass through
the darkness there is light. The glorious view of the Jerusalem forest, with the sun
shining over the historic homeland of the Jewish people, a fulfillment of the prophecy:
You shall live again, upon your own soil. Here on your ancient land let it be said