‘May Their Memory Be for a Blessing’

U.S. Department of State, DipNote Blog

Hannah Rosenthal serves as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

On April 19, people all over the world will commemorate Yom Ha’Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Judaism, when we remember the dead we say “zikron l’vrach“– may their memory be for a blessing. On this day, we stand united against one of the most sinister and evil chapters of history, scarred by the unthinkable deeds of governments and collaborators and the silence of so many.

In my job as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, two of the tools I use in my outreach to governments and civil society are education and dialogue. They are mandatory first steps to prevent and overcome ignorance and hate. We must advance the universal message that such evil must be confronted rather than ignored. We must forge connections between students, between communities, and between faiths.

In January, I was honored to attend a United Nations showing of the unique documentary film, The Last Flight of Petr Ginz. The film tells the story of an artistic Czech boy who was killed at Auschwitz. It focuses on Petr’s short life — how he wrote poems and novels while interned at Terezin and how strongly he wanted to live despite the horrors surrounding him. Watching the documentary, I was humbled by Petr’s strength, much as I am humbled whenever I meet survivors, camp liberators, rescuers, and eyewitnesses of this terrible event. I am the child of a Holocaust survivor myself. Films like Petr Ginz, remind us of the power of the individual, the power of expression, the power of memory. It is a lesson we must all take to heart.

Despite our commitment to expose and educate about the killing factories and concentration camps of World War II, to our dismay, the Holocaust was not the final chapter on genocide and human hatred. The bigotry and ignorance that drove the Nazis still exists, and, in fact, thrives today. In Rwanda during the summer of 1994 almost a million people were murdered in only 100 days. In 1995, more than 8,000 were massacred in Bosnia and Herzegovina around Srebrenica. During the Khmer Rouge’s reign in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, almost two million people were killed. Between 2003 and 2010, over 300,000 people died in the conflict in Darfur.

As we pause today to commemorate Yom Ha’Shoah, we must remember the six million Jews and other victims who perished during the Holocaust. And we must stay vigilant in confronting bigotry and hatred whenever we encounter it. Let us work together to create a more respectful world and ensure memories of the millions killed by the Nazis will be “for a blessing.”

Editor’s Note: More information on Special Envoy Rosenthal’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism can be found on the Department of State’s website and on the Facebook page for the virtual campaign 2012 Hours Against Hate. To read Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s press statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, please click here.

Stay connected with Special Envoy Rosenthal on Facebook.

Cross-posted from DipNote, the official State Department blog.

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