Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal was awarded the Tikkun Olam Award by the Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project on August 3, 2011 for her efforts to combat all forms of hate and intolerance. In Hebrew, Tikkun Olam means “repairing the world.” This award is bestowed upon individuals or organizations which have dedicated themselves to Holocaust or World War II research.
The Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project was founded in January 2010 to document and commemorate Haiti’s role in providing refuge to 100-300 Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II. The project’s central database collects and memorializes personal reflections and artifacts of Holocaust survivors who sought refuge in Haiti.
The Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (SEAS) advocates U.S. policy on anti-Semitism both in the U.S. and internationally, developing and implementing policies and projects to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism. The Special Envoy was created by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, and is a part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. For more information about Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal’s work, please visit www.facebook.com/SERosenthal and follow her on Twitter @HannahAtState.
Centropa Summer Academy Program: Special Envoy Rosenthal’s Remarks to Educators for Holocaust Education Program
Good afternoon! Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to have the opportunity to talk with you today. As educators, you play a critical role to help develop the next generation of citizens, not only for each of your respective countries, but for the world.
Being in Sarajevo is important for two reasons — we can see, and feel, and hear the stories of how Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Catholics really did get along, and we can see what happened when people let their differences get in the way of peaceful coexistence.
I have been to most of your countries – you are coming from Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the U.S.. You probably have stories of cooperation and conflict in your own communities. I am thrilled that you are participating in this Centropa program where you have had the opportunity to interact with colleagues from 14 countries and learn about the richness of Jewish life and contributions in Europe. I hope that in the past week’s workshops, you have been able to focus on the importance of memory, and how modern technologies will help keep those memories alive and meaningful. I hope the dual tools of memory and technology have helped you as teachers to share stories and project ideas with each other, and that those devices will help your students during the school year, as they collaborate in class, and well into the future.
People of different religions in this region got along for several centuries – when Jews and Muslims, and Orthodox and Catholics, all lived side by side. Did they love each other? Surely not all of them. But did they get along and depend on each other? Of course they did. While the Nazis almost completely destroyed the Sephardic Jewish world in Bosnia-Herzegovina, many surviving Jews returned to the area after the war.
The Jewish community played a significant humanitarian role during the ethnic war in the early 1990s. The story of La Benevolencija – a Jewish humanitarian organization formed 100 years ago that promotes welfare for all people irrespective of religion or nationality – is a story of civil society at its best. In the middle of an ethnic war of hate, those who refused to emphasize religious differences and wanted to work together, could do so. Where? In an old synagogue in the middle of a dying city that had been cut off from the world. Who was there to open the doors each day? A tiny band of Holocaust survivors and their children.
What was the book they used as their guide? The Sarajevo Hagaddah. This copy has supposedly survived since 1492 when Jews brought it with them fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. What does it say on the first page of every Hagaddah? “All who are hungry, let them come and eat. All those who are in need of fellowship, let them come and celebrate Passover with us.”
In other words, the Jewish community of Sarajevo used the Hagaddah as a how-to book. And we are glad they did…
A month ago, in Lithuania, I spoke to educators there about teaching the Holocaust. As I noted, the Holocaust affected Lithuania, as it affected your countries in one way or another, and it should be acknowledged. The Holocaust and World War II era is a part of your country’s historical narrative, just as the contributions of Jews to European society before the Holocaust is a part of history. What makes the Centropa program so unique is its focus on 20th century Jewish history that engages you as teachers, as well as your students, with Holocaust education in innovative ways. In teaching about the Holocaust, memory plays an invaluable role: memories from survivors, victims, witnesses and perpetrators of the Holocaust have contributed significantly to what we know and understand about the Holocaust. These memories have shaped the way we perceive history and respond to it.
We are facing an inevitable challenge to Holocaust education. What will we do when there are no longer survivors, liberators or other eyewitnesses who can recount their firsthand accounts of the Holocaust? Personal testimonies have been an effective tool in Holocaust education over the past several decades. Soon we will rely only on videos or recordings of their testimonies. In the past week, I hope that you have found some useful tools to access memories of Holocaust survivors – whether it’s having a survivor in your town able to speak in your classroom, or it’s a visit to a museum, or a film you show your class — and incorporate them into your lessons. Channeling your students’ creativity to make memory come alive will ensure your success.
In the 21st century, where everything seems to be instant and high-speed, available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button, it is important for our education systems to be up-to-date in their ability to incorporate technology in the classroom. I use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about anti-Semitism, as well as human rights, tolerance and democracy. I compile a weekly summary of news articles from around the world – thanks to the Internet, we have access to many sources. These items are subsequently posted on my Facebook page under the heading “Here’s What We’re Hearing” so that social media users are more aware of anti-Semitism around the world.
I also use Facebook and other social media, like Twitter, to connect with people – especially youth — and to encourage them to go beyond words, speeches, or even lectures by providing a vehicle for them to do something tangible to promote tolerance and practice mutual respect. My colleague Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslims Communities, and I have recently launched a virtual campaign called “2011 Hours Against Hate,” using Facebook. We are asking young people around the world to pledge a number of hours to volunteer to help or serve a population different than their own. We ask them to work with people who may look different, or pray differently or live differently. For example, a young Jew might volunteer time to read books at a Muslim pre-school, or an Orthodox at a Jewish clinic, or a Muslim at a Catholic food pantry. We want to encourage them to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. I encourage you to consider how this initiative would work in your classrooms, in your communities. With young people participating all over the world, they are redefining that the word GLOBALIZATION means.
Using social media to connect individuals is something I expect you will be doing as you move forward with this project. Technology will help connect your students from one country to another, such as in an online forum, where they can share comments and opinions as well as videos. It isn’t only about economics, but about building relationships.
Farah and I began meeting with hundreds of young people earlier this year – students and young professionals – in Azerbaijan, Spain and Turkey – countries that in their histories celebrated Jews and Muslims co-existing and thriving together. They want to DO something. They expressed strong interest in the campaign – and we have already surpassed our goal of 2011 hours pledged against hate. More recently, Farah and I met with youth and interfaith leaders in Jordan and Lebanon, discussing reaching out to others and increasing tolerance and understanding among different religious groups. Really, we have just begun.
As educators, you are each others’ best resources. I am interested in learning about your sessions in Krakow and Vienna, hearing about your cooperation in producing materials that reach the most number of students. I encourage you to continue to collaborate as you return to your respective classrooms.
You, as educators, play one of the most important roles: exposing students to the history, creating a safe space in which to discuss difficult topics, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s youth.
I discover more and more the importance of educating youth about the Holocaust – teaching lessons of history, teaching tolerance. As the President’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I am charged with both monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and combating such intolerance. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have fully integrated my office into the State Department. In this role, I have been tracking the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, and have seen its alarming presence and growth.
As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. My father was arrested – on Kristalnacht, the unofficial pogrom that many think started the Holocaust – and sent with many of his congregants to prison and then to Buchenwald. He was the lucky one – every other person in his family perished at Auschwitz. I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my father could give me.
I have been on the job for more than a year and a half – and I have seen six significant trends in anti-Semitism around the world:
First of all, anti-Semitism is not History, it is News. I run into people who think anti-Semitism ended when Hitler killed himself. More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry.
This stems from the fact that traditional forms of anti-Semitism are passed from one generation to the next, updated to reflect current events. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property and the desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti. There are still accusations of blood libel, which are morphing from the centuries-old accusations by individuals that Jews killed children to use their blood for rituals, to accusations that Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jews were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
A second phenomenon is Holocaust denial. It is being espoused by religious leaders, heads of State, such as in Iran, in academic institutions, and is a standard on hateful websites and other media outlets. As the generation of Holocaust survivors and death camp liberators reaches their eighties and nineties, the window is closing on those able to provide eyewitness accounts and thus we have a heightened sense of urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
A third, disturbing trend is Holocaust glorification, which can be seen in parades honoring soldiers who fought in the Waffen SS, which glorifies Nazism under the guise of fighting the Soviets and obscures their roles in the Holocaust. Following a March 2011 commemoration in Latvia, a notorious neo-Nazi made blatantly anti-Semitic statements, including incitements to violence against Jews, on a television talk show. The growth of neo-Nazi groups is of special concern in Europe, and Holocaust glorification is especially virulent in Middle Eastern media – some that is state-owned and operated, which calls for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bone-chilling.
A fourth concern is Holocaust relativism – where some governments, museums, academic research and the like are conflating the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering, like the Dirty War or the Soviet regime. No one, least of all myself, wants to weigh atrocities against each other, but to group these horrific chapters of history together is not only historically inaccurate, but also misses opportunities to learn important lessons from each of these historic events, even as we reflect on universal truths about the need to defend human rights and combat hatred in all of its forms. History must be precise – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world.
The fifth trend is the increasing tendency of blurring the lines between opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. What I hear from our diplomatic missions, and from non-governmental organizations alike, is that this happens easily and often. I want to be clear – criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. But we record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there are hostilities in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify. But if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments like Venezuela call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. When individual Jews are effectively banned or their conferences boycotted, or are held responsible for Israeli policy – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.
Natan Sharansky identified three ways that he believes crosses the line: “It is anti-Semitic when Israel is demonized, held to different standards or delegitimized.” The U.S. is often the only “no” vote in international bodies where countries seem to have an obsession with singling out Israel for disproportionate condemnation.
The sixth trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities — in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews, or for that matter, other traditionally discriminated against minorities. The history of Europe, with Russian pogroms, Nazism, and ethnic cleansing here in the Balkans provides sufficient evidence. And when government officials talk about protecting a country’s purity, we’ve seen that movie before.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and reports on them in all 198 countries and territories – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom Report and the Human Rights Report. I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in their countries, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism. This will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism in all its forms. These reports tell us that many countries are pushing hard to advance human rights and fight discrimination. It also tells us that there is so much more work to do. If we don’t chronicle it, if we don’t name it, we can’t fight it.
Of course, it isn’t enough to study and monitor these deeply troubling trends. It is critical that we act to reverse them.
My approach to combating anti-Semitism is not just to preach to the choir, so to speak, but to join in partnership with non-Jews in condemning it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, and media.
Last summer, Secretary Clinton launched an initiative to strengthen civil society across the globe and she instructed all of us in the State Department and all our overseas posts to treat civil society as strategic partners. Partnering with opinion leaders from civil society as well as government — as well as building bridges among ethnic and religious groups, is the way to change a culture – from fear and negative stereotyping to acceptance and understanding, from narrow mindedness to an embrace of diversity, from hate to tolerance. I hope that through Centropa, and your classrooms, you – as members of civil society — have made solid connections that will last through more than the next school year, when you reach out to students and your communities.
Together, we must confront and combat the many forms of hatred in our world today. Where there is hatred born of ignorance, we must teach and inspire. Where there is hatred born of blindness, we must expose people to a larger world of ideas and reach out, especially to youth, so they can see beyond their immediate circumstances. Where there is hatred whipped up by irresponsible leaders, we must call them out and answer as strongly as we can – and make their message totally unacceptable to all people of conscience.
I congratulate you for participating in this important academy and for combating anti-Semitism and other hatreds in all their forms. I hope you will lead educational efforts to make anti-Semitism something only found in history books. We are counting on you to translate the lessons of the past to create a better and more tolerant world.
Thank you for all you are doing and will be doing.
Good afternoon! Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to have this opportunity to visit Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city and its former capital. As an American; as a Jew; as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor; and as the United States’ Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, it is profoundly moving for me to visit Lithuania again, and in particular, to talk with educators about teaching the Holocaust. I thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.
Yesterday I attended two memorial dedications, one at the Snipiskes cemetery and the other at Paneriai. The Snipiskes cemetery in Vilnius, a pre-war cemetery in which 50,000 Lithuanian Jews are buried, was mostly destroyed and covered by a sports arena during the Soviet regime. After several years of protests against renewed building on the cemetery, Vilnius Municipality has demarcated borders for the cemetery in order to restore its dignity. The Paneriai Memorial, about 10 kilometers from Vilnius, is on the site of the largest mass murder of Jews in Lithuania during World War II. I paid my respects to the 100,000 people who were killed there, of whom 70,000 were Jews. Your government is to be commended for establishing this government-protected memorial. These events remind me of the importance of the work I have been charged with as the Special Envoy.
In our hurried 21st century world, where everything seems to be instant and high-speed and available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button, it is important to pause – to take time out of our busy lives to remember the past, honor its victims, and pledge to do all we can to prevent future acts of violence and hatred. However, it is not enough to merely use sterling words to try to show the world that we care. We also need concrete actions. To quote Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, we must “create sparks in our hearts out of the ashes.”
As the President’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I am charged with both monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and combating such intolerance, with creating sparks in our hearts out of the ashes.
As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. When I was old enough to somewhat understand what my father went through as the only member of his family to survive, I asked him how he handled his guilt and kept his sanity. He didn’t miss a beat and said: “I survived to have you, Hannele!” – so took that guilt off his shoulders and put it squarely on mine – and I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only Dad could give me.
That path led me on January 27 to walk — voluntarily — through the gates of Auschwitz – under the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign (deceiving the people entering Auschwitz that work will make you free). I went to Auschwitz as a member of the official U.S. delegation to mark the 65th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.
As President Obama said in his televised remarks at the commemoration, the survivors of Auschwitz “are living memorials. Living memorials to the spirit we must strive to uphold in our time—not simply to bear witness, but to bear a burden. The burden of seeing our common humanity; of resisting anti-Semitism and ignorance in all its forms; of refusing to become bystanders to evil, whenever and wherever it rears its ugly face.”
At Auschwitz, as I traveled on the soil stained with the blood of the Jewish people, I wondered what it all means. The Holocaust was not only the greatest genocide in world history, but also the greatest theft of people’s entire possessions, their cultural and religious heritage. The Nazi’s didn’t just steal people’s lives, they attempted to obliterate an entire culture. We cannot bring back the dead. But we can recommit ourselves to remember them, to do justice to their heirs, and to educate future generations about the Holocaust.
As I left Auschwitz to news of more anti-Semitic statements by religious leaders and anti-Semitic vandalism elsewhere in the world, I couldn’t help but ask, “Did we learn anything?”
I have been on the job for over a year now – and I have seen six significant trends in anti-Semitism around the world:
First of all, anti-Semitism is not History, it is News. I run into people who think anti-Semitism ended when Hitler killed himself. More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry.
Traditional forms of anti-Semitism persist in societies worldwide, passed from one generation to the next, and updated to reflect current events. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even accusations of blood libel, which are morphing from the centuries old Church accusations that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for rituals to accusations that Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jews were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
A second phenomenon is Holocaust denial. It is coming from religious leaders in some places, including some heads of State, such as in Iran, in academic institutions in some places, and is a standard on hateful websites and other media outlets. As the generation of Holocaust survivors and death camp liberators reaches their eighties and nineties, the window is closing on those able to provide eyewitness accounts. There is a heightened urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
A third, disturbing trend is Holocaust glorification – which can be seen in events that openly display Nazi symbols, in the growth of neo-Nazi groups, and is especially virulent in Middle East media – some that is state owned and operated – calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. And in Latvia, a notorious neo-Nazi made blatantly anti-Semitic statements, including incitements to violence against Jews, on a television talk show. Truly bone-chilling.
A fourth concern is Holocaust relativism – where some governments, museums, academic research and the like are conflating the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering. No one wants to get into dueling atrocities. But to lump together these horrific chapters of history is not only historically inaccurate, it also misses opportunities to learn important lessons from each historic event even as we reflect on universal truths about the need to defend human rights and combat hatred in all of its forms. History must be precise – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world.
The fifth trend is the increasing tendency of opposition to the policies of the State of Israel to cross the line into anti-Semitism. What I hear from our diplomatic missions, and from our close relationship with non-governmental organizations in the U.S. and around the world, is that this happens easily and often. I want to be clear – criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. But we record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there are hostilities in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify. But if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions, when all academics and experts from Israel are effectively banned or their conferences boycotted, or individual Jews are held responsible for Israeli policy – – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. Natan Sharansky identified the “Three Ds” that cross the line: “It is anti-Semitic when Israel is demonized, held to different standards or delegitimized.” The U.S. is often the only “no” vote in international bodies where countries seem to have an obsession with singling out Israel for disproportionate condemnation.
The sixth trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews. The history of Europe, with Russian pogroms and Nazism, provides sufficient evidence. And when government officials talk about protecting a country’s purity, we’ve seen that movie before.
It is easy to feel discouraged that this issue continues to plague our societies, but it underscores the importance of the need to work even harder. Our job will not be finished until anti-Semitism is a distant memory. And yet the memory itself has profound value as it continues to teach us. Of course, it isn’t enough to study and monitor these deeply troubling trends. It is critical that we act to reverse them.
The Nazi effort to exterminate all Jews was well known – Mein Kampf was a best seller in 1933. So people knew what Hitler wanted to do. Never before or after the Holocaust has any country built death factories, and the success of their efforts has no equivalency anywhere in history. In Vilnius, Jews were almost 30% of the population in 1931. Out of 60,000 local Jews, 57,000 were murdered, by Nazis, unfortunately in collaboration with some Lithuanian military units, auxiliary police, and countrymen. Of the country’s 250,000 Jewish citizens and residents, only 6,000 survived. Lithuania had the highest percentage of its Jewish population murdered, higher than anywhere else in Europe.
There are several stories of brave and honorable Lithuanians who assisted, sheltered and saved Jews during this organized killing spree. Many of them were killed for doing so – and 780 are honored as “righteous among us” at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial to the 6 million Jews lost during the Holocaust.
How much of this history do the people of Lithuania know? They need to know the terrible stories of the extermination of Lithuania Jews, but they should also know the importance of Jews to Lithuanian culture and history.
After Grand Duke Gediminas personally invited them to Vilnius in the 14th century, the Jews flourished, along with other ethnic groups. They built enormous educational systems, and the city became known as “The Northern Jerusalem”. Beautiful Jewish artwork was part of the Lithuanian culture. Jewish scholars and poets and authors lived in Lithuania. And had their families not left Lithuania due to persecution, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Aaron Klug, and musicians Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and even John Stewart could have been from Lithuania!!
In this connection, I want to say that I know that living under Soviet oppression for so many years was beyond terrible, and I understand the severity of your suffering. Everyone’s intense pain is unique and needs to be acknowledged.
There is a famous saying that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That is our challenge now – to learn from the past and prepare for the future.
The goal of fighting anti-Semitism is a high priority for the Obama Administration. We focus on what is going on in the world, regularly reporting on incidents of anti-Semitism and other human rights violations and abuses. I work with American Embassies, as well as non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and watchdog groups around the world to gather information on 194 countries, including Lithuania. Each year we produce two major reports – the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both are on-line and can be easily accessed by any of you who are interested how your country and others are doing in protecting human rights and fighting anti-Semitism.
These reports tell us that many countries are pushing hard to advance human rights and fighting discrimination. It also tells us that there is so much more work to do.
I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in the countries where they work, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism – this will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism in all its forms. If we don’t chronicle it, if we don’t name it, we can’t fight it.
Education is a vital tool we use to combat anti-Semitism.
Your role as teachers is essential to our efforts. I can work to make change with leaders of communities and groups of individuals, but you work directly with youth on a day-to-day basis. You have the ability to affect significant change too.
As educators, you play an integral role in laying the foundation to promote tolerance and to understand the dangers of hatred. As with any form of prejudice, anti-Semitism is often based in ignorance and fear. Therefore, it is necessary to have well trained teachers who can appropriately and effectively discuss the lessons of the Holocaust. Your presence at this training exemplifies your commitment to educating Lithuania’s youth.
The Lithuanian government has taken significant steps to recognize the Holocaust as a part of Lithuania’s history, in particular, and Europe’s history, in general. By declaring 2011 “the Year of Remembrance of Lithuanian citizens – Holocaust Victims,” the Government of Lithuania is emphasizing the centrality of the Holocaust to your particular history. Lithuania’s grant from the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research underlines your government’s commitment to incorporate the Holocaust into schools and other institutions. By broadening your knowledge of the unique character of the Holocaust and its role in European history, as well as its repercussions that deeply influence human rights education, policies and practices in today’s world, you will be better able to transmit invaluable lessons to your students.
The approach to Holocaust education is two-fold. The Holocaust was a significant part of your country’s history. It is important to learn about this within the context of your own history and World War II. It is equally important to teach the Holocaust in the greater context of universal values of human rights, including tolerance and combating hatred.
The Holocaust forces us to question and discuss basic moral issues. It is a basis for understanding the foundations and consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping. It provides a context to study the nature of discrimination and the effects of extremist governments. Discrimination is not just state-sponsored prejudices – it can start as bullying in schools, or cyber bullying, or hate speech.
In the Lithuanian Ministry of Education mandated curriculum, the Holocaust is being integrated into an accepted national history. It is commendable that the Government of Lithuania has recognized the Holocaust as a defining part of its history. Discussions about the various groups – including perpetrators, collaborators, victims, and bystanders – allows for open dialogue and analyses of the complex issues of the Holocaust. Keep in mind – the Holocaust is an extremely complex event. It is important to recognize that there are many unknowns, much research still needs to be conducted. However, there is so much to learn from the research and firsthand accounts available today.
In education, it is important to stimulate intellectual curiosity among students, get them to ask questions, challenge ideas, analyze situations. The Holocaust does exactly this. We want them to ask questions – how did this happen? Why didn’t people stop it? Why did they target the Jews and other minorities? In this forum, we can approach the topics of prejudice, stereotypes, human rights violations and ramifications of each of these. We can discuss the use and abuse of power, repercussions of staying silent, the value of diversity, the need for tolerance. We want to educate our youth to recognize the warning signs for intolerance and halt it in its tracks.
We are facing an inevitable challenge to Holocaust education – what will we do when there are no longer survivors, liberators or other eyewitnesses who can recount their firsthand accounts of the Holocaust? Personal testimonies have been an effective tool in Holocaust education over the past several decades. Soon we will rely primarily on videos or recordings of their testimonies. Since the Holocaust took place on your soil, you have many physical markers – 202 memorial sites across the country. This is a useful educational tool to help students bear witness to the events that took place in Lithuania. Take advantage of your location and incorporate these places in your efforts.
You, as educators, play one of the most important roles: exposing students to the history, creating a safe space in which to discuss difficult topics, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to the youth of Lithuania.
We should remain committed to confronting and combating hate in all its forms. Reinforcing Holocaust education, promoting acceptance, respect and tolerance – as well as building bridges among ethnic and religious groups, is the way to change a culture – from fear and negative stereotyping to acceptance and understanding, from narrow mindedness to an embrace of diversity, from hate to tolerance.
In teaching the Holocaust, there is a tension between the universal and the particular. While the Jewish story is a unique one and anti-Semitism has unique aspects – and both are stories that must be told – hate and intolerance are too common. Nothing justifies intolerance – not economic instability, not international events. We condemn intolerance against any and all religious and ethnic groups. We must all work with each other to condemn anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred. It is the right thing to do, it has great impact, and it meets the needs of enlightened self-interest. For when hatred for one is extinguished, life is better for all.
I congratulate you for participating in this important course and for combating anti-Semitism and other hatreds in all their forms. You represent the future; you will lead educational efforts to make anti-Semitism something only found in history books. We are counting on you to translate the lessons of the past to create a better and more tolerant world.
Thank you for all you are doing and will be doing.
On Thursday, May 12, 2011, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal recognized the work of Father Patrick Desbois, President of the Yahad-In Unum Association of France, with a Tribute of Appreciation certificate. The event took place in the Treaty Room of the U.S. Department of State. Father Desbois delivered remarks and a short film about his mission was screened. Father Desbois has dedicated his life to identifying previously unknown Holocaust-era mass graves, countering anti-Semitism, and advancing Catholic-Jewish relations. Since 2001, he and his team have identified the remains of over one million Jews and Roma in almost 1,000 mass graves across Eastern Europe.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Thank you for joining us this morning in the historic Treaty Room. Past and present Secretaries of State and scores of diplomats have gathered to witness important events here. I would like to recognize the Ambassador-designate for International Religious Freedom, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook. We look forward to having her on board next week.
Today marks another special occasion as we honor Father Patrick Desbois and his life’s work to uncover millions of uncounted victims of the Holocaust. Through his steadfast efforts in Eastern Europe, Father Desbois has met elderly townspeople and recorded their stories, their information, and they are eyewitnesses to unspeakable things. We’re going to first see a short video, very short video, that shows some of the work that Father Desbois does with his team, and then we’re going to hear from him, you know, personally.
I want to just say that Father Desbois founded an organization called “Yahad-in-Unum,” which is “Together” in Hebrew and Latin. He has made it his life’s mission to find the graves—the unmarked graves, the never-before-known graves—of millions of people, and he’ll tell you how he does it, and he’ll tell you what it means to him and why he’s doing it. So first, sit quietly as we watch this short video, and then we will welcome Father Desbois here to speak to us.
FATHER DESBOIS: Thank you. First we can wonder why a French Catholic priest from Burgundy what he is doing in the killing fields of Ukraine, Belarus, and now Poland and Russia. In July ’42 my grandfather was deported from France to a small village called Rawa Ruska. He was not Jew; it was a deportation for French military. And when he came back, he refused to speak…to nobody. So I raised to him the question thousands of times, “What happened there?” Finally he told me, “In the camp we had nothing to eat, no food, no drink, but outside the camp was worse.” And me as a child I was wondering what could be worse than a camp of deportee prisoners.
And one day I went back to Rawa Ruska. I met the mayor. It was post-Soviet period. And I asked the mayor, because I knew that in the village they shot 18 thousand Jews–it’s a very small village. I asked to him, “Where are the mass graves of the Jews?” He told me, “We don’t know. They killed them in secret. It was totally secret.” And in that period we were thinking it was secret. But me I’m from a village, and I know we cannot kill 18 thousand people in secret in a village. So I came back two times, three times, four times in Rawa Ruska, and finally things got…the mayor lost the election. A new mayor has been elected, much less Soviet. He told me, “I will make you a surprise.” He brought me in a small hamlet called Borové. And…only one road, dogs barking, geese walking. And at the end of the street were 50 farmers, old people, waiting.
When we went out of the car, he told me, “Patrick, we are going to the mass grave of the last 1,500 Jews of Rawa Ruska.” And he organized them in a circle like you are today. One came in the middle; he said to me, “I was with my mother keeping a cow when suddenly we saw a German arriving with a motorcycle and a dog, and he was turning. And nobody understood why.” In fact, [to] every village they sent a German who was a specialist of the digging of the mass grave, who was looking where to dig the grave. Normally he has seen the mayor of the city before[hand] and asks, “How many Jews in the village?”
You remember that in Soviet Union “Jew” was written on the passport, so the mayor knew exactly how many Jews were living in the district and where they were living. So this guy was a specialist to calculate the volume of the mass grave according to the number of Jews they wanted to kill.
One day after, arrived 3 Germans with 30 Jews in a truck to dig the grave 8 meters deep. The witness, he remembered everything. He remembered that the Germans were bored during the digging so they asked for a table from the village and they put a gramophone and began to listen [to] German music. And, after, one played harmonica, and he broke his harmonica. And later, with metallic detector, we found the pieces of harmonica in the ground.
After a certain moment, the Germans said to the Jews, “Now you are tired, you should take rest,” so they went out of the grave and took rest on the grass. And secretly, one local policeman went down in the mass grave and put explosive under the ground. And, after, they said to the Jews, “Now you can go on digging.” And the 30 Jews exploded.
At that moment, another witness came in–an old lady with a blue scarf. She told me, “Me, I was in my farm, I was 14 years old, and they told me, ‘Come, come,’ and I had to climb in the trees and to pick up the pieces of corpse and hide them with branches in the grave so that the next Jews will not see it. And, after, arrived trucks and trucks and trucks of Jews from Rawa Ruska.”
In one day and a half, they shot 1,500 Jews, the last Jews of Rawa Ruska. With two shooters, with carbine Mausers, and three pushers. Why pushers? Because in July ’41 they established a law in accord with Wehrmacht to use only one bullet per Jew. One Jew one bullet. One bullet one Jew. So if people were only injured they pushed them and they were buried alive.
After, we learned that they never shot the children. They always throw in air, and as we found in many German archives they say, “We played with the Jewish children like balloon.”
The same evening, I was alone in the forest with the mayor. He told me, “Patrick, what I did for you for one village, I can do for 100 villages.” And I will never know why he said that. And I will never know why I said, “Yes.”
I came back in Paris. I spoke to Cardinal Lustiger, [who] was from Jewish family. He told me, “Oh, I know the story because my Polish family has been shot in Poland in Bendzin. Same way.” I went to New York. I met with Israel Singer what at the moment were at the Jewish Congress, and he did not know I spoke Hebrew. So he said to another, “You know what? We are looking for these mass graves since ’44, and this guy that we don’t know he finds them.” Finally we decided to build the Yahad-In- Unum together in Hebrew and Latin, and Lustiger told me, ‘We will not say ‘unum’, because we are not ‘unum’ Catholic and Jews but we are ‘in unum’, and ‘unum’ is God.
Now, where are we? We are 7 years after. Four teams. We go 15 times per year in this country 17 days each time. Today, actually these days, I have one team north of Minsk and one team in Donetsk. How do we proceed? First, we have extremely good relation with the Holocaust Museum of Washington. So, we have somebody full time working in the Holocaust Museum to find Soviet archives. In every village in ‘44, Soviet either opens a mass grave, made investigation, or at least make a drawing to say where are the mass graves, 16 million of pages. They scan these documents, they send them to Paris. Two other persons are working in German archives, in Justice Archive in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. We got the authorization also to scan the archive. So we send that in France, we translate it, and we build the file. So for each village we have a file. So before going to the village now we know if they shot 40, 60 persons or, like in Bogdanovka, 45 thousand Jews. It was the Jews of Odessa. When we arrive in the village we are nine…we ask four persons to go in four directions and they knock at every door. We follow always the same question: “Ma’am, you were here during the War?” and if she says yes or he says yes, we say “Oh. You can help us.” And were you here the day of the shooting? And if she says yes, then “Do you accept to be interviewed?” and on the spot in afternoon we interview. We don’t wait; otherwise a neighbor will tell them not to speak.
The interview is not a sentimental interview. It’s really a rebuilding of the crime. I will give you an example. This lady that you saw in the beginning of the movie I found her through the church. She’s living in Rawa Ruska. I came over many time in Rawa Ruska because it was very difficult to find the graves. Suddenly it was Sunday and I went to the Greco-Catholic church and I asked the priest, an old priest. So at the end of the mass, he said, “Many Jews have been killed. Please, please say the truth: if somebody was present at the execution, go out of the church, a priest is waiting to interview.”
This woman run outside, and she said, “I was there.” And I said, “Which shooting you saw?” She told me, “I saw the shooting of 5 thousand Jews.” And so we brought her back to the mass grave, and she was present with 5 other children hidden behind bushes, and she remembered exactly where it was the chief of the unit, where was the truck, and she remembered also the name of many families of Rawa Ruska that she saw because they were her neighbors. That’s a nice testimony.
Sometimes it’s a very difficult testimony. I remember it was Christmas, Orthodox Christmas. It means January. One family said, “Oh, Father, come to make Christmas with us.” It means to eat. “And, because our grandfather was present the day of the shooting, so you can interview him.” So I was thinking, “I will make the interview before the vodka, because after it will be over.” So we began the interview at the table and the grandfather says, “Yes, I was here the day of the last shooting; I was asked to dig mass graves four meter per four and German told us not to watch, but I could watch.” And he said, “Two days after, they decided to burn alive 350 Jewish workers in a sugar factory.” He said, “They closed the factory with fences, they burned them alive, and after, I had to enter in the factory, to take the corpse by the window, before the farmers, to put them in carts, and bring them in another mass grave.” And, after, he said, “I was also present the day of the liquidation of the ghetto.” And he told me, “You know, the Jews had big apartments, so we had to have big ropes to take belongings by the window. We put the belongings in carts. We brought them in synagogue, and we sold them by auction.” At the end of the meal, as it was Christmas, arrived two teenagers. One was playing Jesus, one was playing Mary, Joseph, people I know, and suddenly was playing Mendel. He was playing Mendel arriving with a fur coat, a red nose, and speaking with a Yiddish accent. Until now I wonder how a 16-year-old Ukrainian can remember a Yiddish accent. And he said, “I am Mendel. I am the Jew of the village. I come to steal your money.” After, arrived a girl suited in Jew. Scarf. And she opened a leather bag, and she said, “I am Madame Mendel. I stole all the cellular [phones] of the village. I sell to you.” Suddenly the witnesses—the old guy—began to laugh. He said, “Ho, I did the same play when I was a teenager during the war. And the German arrested me because they were thinking I was Jew.” So you must understand that, at that moment, you must not show anything. It was, of course, a pure anti-Semite atmosphere. Either you want to know the truth either you want to express yourself. I remember my cameraman said, “Oh, it’s an awful family.” I said, “Yes, but if you show your feeling, you will never know what the next house what they did.” I say that because it was difficult to train 4 teams–we have 4 teams now, going 15 times per year—it was difficult to train young people not to show their feeling to be able to know the truth.
Finally, I will finish by saying we have interviewed now 1,700 witnesses. We have covered three quarters of the territory of the Ukraine, three regions of Belarus, two regions of Russia, and now we begin in Poland, because they shot one Jew per ten in Poland and there are many mass graves. More or less we could rebuild the crime. They sent, as I said, a German alone. He goes to see the mayor, he asks how many Jews and he uses Soviet system of requisition to have free workers to dig the grave. For example, in Brona Gura they asked 700 farmers to dig the graves. Forced workers. Without the Soviet system they could not do it. They dig the grave—or the graves. When the grave is finished, they phone to the region and they say the mass grave is ready. So they decide the day of the shooting. When they arrive for the shooting, they arrive from far. They already asked the local police to surrender the Jewish area so that no Jew will escape. They arrive early in the morning. They send an announce in the village that the Jews will be deported to Palestine or to Kiev or to but most of the time in Palestine. I remember a Ukrainian lady, she was crying, because she saw her neighbor in the line to be shot, and the neighbor said, “Don’t cry, don’t cry—we go to Palestine.” And she told her, “It’s not Palestine. I saw the mass grave behind the church.” And the local police said, “If you go on speaking with the Jew, you will be shot like the Jew,” so she went back home. After a certain moment, most of the Jews are queuing on the main road, five per five, with the majority of their belonging because they think they will be deported. You know that in the Soviet Union deportation was not rare. Many Jews understand they will be shot so they are hidden somewhere. So the local police is passing from home to home. Any Jew they find hidden they shoot him. So at the end of this line there are carts and carts who have been requisitioned with dead Jews. At a moment they give a signal: direction Palestine, or direction Kiev. They begin to walk, most of the time the mass grave is not in the forest, contrary to what we were thinking, because the German are afraid to be attacked by the partisan: it’s in the public place. Suddenly they tell them to turn right and left and suddenly the Jews understand that they don’t go to Palestine. Because they are in the field. So they throw everything—their jewels, their affairs—not to give to the Germans. And that we find after with metallic detector. Suddenly they tell them they have to undress from warm coat, their cover boots, and, after, they isolate them five per five and ten per ten and they kick them and they bring them to the mass grave. Why five per five? Because if there are five shooters, five Jew. Ten shooters, ten Jew. They put them in order in front, they shoot them. Just at the night they will cover them, the same people who were digging the grave, wait to cover even if the people are not dead. And they bring back all the suits to the school or to synagogue. In the nights, they employ people to repair the suits, to sell them with a better price. They reorganize the sale by auction; normally it takes three days. They announce everywhere: Sale by auction for the suits of the Jews. People come to buy: “Who wants a shirt? Who wants a pant?” and they make auction. After, they will sell the belongings of the houses that they bring also to a place, normally it takes minimum three weeks. I speak of a small city, not of course of Kiev or Lvov. It means after three weeks there are no more belonging, no more suits, and no more Jews.
They did that from the first day of the War. They began in Sokal, just near the border, until the last day of the War. This shooting officially took place from the border of Poland until Ossetia, northern Georgia. Many people think they stopped the shooting when they began Auschwitz, when they began the camp. It was not the case. They never deported the Jews from Ossetia to Auschwitz –they shot them. And even when Auschwitz was existing group were going on working.
Why we need the Soviet archives? Because Himmler established a competition between the German to have efficacity. So very quickly they asked for the certificates that the city is Judenfrei. When they find new Jews, they don’t declare them to Berlin. These units are far from Berlin. So they want to be well-considered, so when sometime for one official shooting in German archive you have ten non-declared shooting. Without the Soviet archives, we could not work. Because they arrive after, and they find all the mass graves.
Finally, why we stand? Because sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s freezing, sometimes there is no running water, because we need bodyguards. Why we stand after so many years? I have the conviction that we cannot build a modern Europe, and perhaps a modern world, above thousands of mass graves of Jews, who have been killed like animals, buried like animals. And also above mass grave of Roma Gypsy. We found 48 sites of extermination of Romas, with no memorial at all, not even one. We cannot build democracies above mass graves. Otherwise, what we can say to Rwanda? What we can say to Darfur? What can we say to Cambodia? What can we say to other countries if we don’t bury the victims? I always say, “When there is a war, there is a military century.” When there is a genocide, there is no century. And also, you know, of course I am a believer: in the beginning of the Bible, Cain is killing Abel. And you remember that God is asking, “Where is your brother?” Asking to Cain. And I think, I am listening to this question from my grandfather for my education since I am a child: “Where is your Jewish Ukrainian brother? Where is your Polish Jewish brother?” He’s in the forest, under the market? Anywhere, like an animal. And you remember the answer of Cain, he said, “Am I the guardian of my brother?” It means, “It’s not my question.” You have so many things to do today; we are not to look for the past. And you remember that God said, “Don’t you hear that the blood of Abel is climbing from Earth until Heaven?” And I think we cannot be the modern world and ask Abel to keep silent. Thank you. [Applause]
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: It’s always hard to to talk. I want to present Father Desbois with this certificate of appreciation in grateful recognition of your invaluable efforts and accomplishments in your service to all mankind. Your unwavering dedication, perseverance, and diplomatic efforts have strengthened the mission of the United States in the international community to fight hate and anti-Semitism and to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust are reinforced and will never be forgotten. We are so grateful.
Thank you all for coming.
We will frame this and send it to you; you don’t have to schlep it now.
Thank you all very much.
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ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the diplomatic corps, esteemed colleagues and members of the press, thank you for joining us to mark this historic occasion.
Fifty years ago today, an Israeli tribunal in Jerusalem began the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the logistical mastermind of Jewish deportation to ghettos and death camps during the Holocaust.
The trial concluded a seven-year hunt for Eichmann’s whereabouts, leading members of the Israeli Mossad from Germany to Argentina.
The trial’s survivor testimonies, as Deborah Lipstadt observes in her superb history of the trial, “transformed…the public’s consciousness” of the destruction and devastation of the Holocaust.
“The trial and the debate that followed,” Professor Lipstadt writes, “inaugurated a slow process whereby the topic of the Holocaust became a matter of concern not only to the Jewish community but to a larger and broader realm of people.”
For advocates of universal human rights, like my colleagues in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the Eichmann trial was a historic moment for the advancement of human rights, international justice, and the pursuit of historical truth.
Accordingly, it is our pleasure to host this important talk with Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and, most recently, the author of The Eichmann Trial.
Hannah Rosenthal, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, will moderate today’s discussion. Prior to her service at the State Department, Special Envoy Rosenthal served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, as well as the Chicago Foundation for Women. Special Envoy Rosenthal served as the Midwest regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.
A daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Special Envoy Rosenthal has led a life marked by activism and a passion for social justice.
Please join me in welcoming Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal.
SPECIAL ENVOY ROSENTHAL: Ladies and gentlemen, members of the diplomatic corps, esteemed colleagues and members of the press, thank you for attending this important event.
It is my pleasure to introduce Professor Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, who is joining us today to talk about her new book, The Eichmann Trial.
Professor Lipstadt represented President George W. Bush as a member of the official American delegation to the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and has served as an adviser to the Department of State on matters of international religious freedom.
In addition to her work with the U.S. Government, Professor Lipstadt is one of the United States’ foremost experts on Holocaust studies, anti-Semitism, and, in particular, Holocaust denial.
Since releasing her first full-length study of Holocaust denial, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Professor Lipstadt has become a public champion of historical truth, and a powerful force for combating anti-Semitism and bigotry at home and abroad.
Her libel trial against British Holocaust denier David Irving, documented in her 2005 book History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, raised the international profile of Holocaust denial—the London Times described the trial as “history has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory.”
With the release of her new book, marking the 50th anniversary of Adolf Eichmann’s war crimes trial in Jerusalem, Professor Lipstadt contributes her passion for historical truth to the complex literature on the trial.
Please join me in welcoming her, as well as her family and colleagues, to the Department of State. Thank you.
The United States places great importance on combating anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination around the world. I have the privilege to serve as the Special Representative to Muslim Communities. I am also pleased that my colleague Hannah Rosenthal, the United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, is with us today here in Astana. Our presence here demonstrates that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are committed to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance worldwide.
In her seven months in this position, Special Envoy Rosenthal has traveled widely in the United States and internationally. On these trips, she regularly meets with government officials, NGO representatives, and academic leaders, as well as with local Jewish communities and interfaith groups. The issue she hears raised again and again is that 2009 saw a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism internationally. This has been documented in the Department of State’s Human Rights Reports.
In addition to an increased number of violent attacks against Jews and synagogues in Europe and elsewhere, 2009 saw growing incidents of harassment of Jewish children in their schools; desecration of Jewish institutions; and increasingly violent and virulent rhetoric in graffiti, as well as in various media. In recent weeks, we have seen legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies cross the line into anti-Semitism. Natan Sharansky teaches us that anti-Israel sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism if Israel is demonized, delegitimized or held to a different standard than any other country.
2009 has also seen the pervasiveness of wildly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This includes irrational Holocaust denial, actually denying the historical reality. This includes Holocaust glorification, in which community leaders ask God to be able to “finish the job” of the Holocaust. This includes Holocaust relativism, where the genocide that was the Holocaust — the systematic extermination of the Jewish people — is minimized by being equated with large-scale acts of political violence, including decades of repression.
The United States supports international organizations like the OSCE and the International Task Force on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research and in order to promote Holocaust awareness and remembrance as a tool of teaching tolerance and understanding for the next generation and so that countries can understand their role and responsibility during the Holocaust.
Anti-Semitic messages still abound in the media and on the Internet. Despite these problems, freedom of expression is a human right for which we must maintain our respect and commitment — in fact, the United States believes that it is through permitting the free flow of expression and ideas that good speech can prevail over bad. The response to anti-Semitic speech and other forms of intolerant speech must therefore, include speech to counter such views, and while fully protecting freedom of expression, encompass a better understanding of and strategy to address the potential of various forms of media to incite violence. And when hate speech is identified, we must all strongly condemn it, calling on governments, to join together in condemning shameful, historically absurd and offensive speech.
As we in the OSCE refocus our attention on commitments made at prior meetings, steps must be taken to guard against indifference to injustice, no matter who is the victim. We must strive to ensure Muslims in the OSCE region are not marginalized, stereotyped or discriminated against. Discriminatory religion laws with onerous registration requirements repress peaceful religious belief. This is particularly true when a legal structure with multi-tiered layers of qualification metes out privileges and rights for majority faiths in a country, with the effect being to eclipse and restrict minority religious groups.
Stereotypes and prejudice towards Jewish communities persist around the world, which is why we must ensure continued support for the OSCE’s anti-Semitism initiatives. In one OSCE participating State Hannah recently visited, a government official she met with actually gave credence to a modern version of the medieval anti-Semitic blood libel lie, discussing an accusation that Jews kidnapped children to steal their organs. Through the work of this conference and the ongoing efforts of OSCE participating States and non-governmental organizations we will continue to monitor and combat anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance and discrimination.
We must work together to ensure that all participating States implement OSCE commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms — freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of religion — as these are at the heart of our efforts to promote more tolerant, pluralistic societies. My colleagues on the U.S. delegation and I look forward to working together with all of you in the future to advance these important goals.
Jews cannot fight anti-Semitism alone. Muslims cannot fight Islamophobia alone. Roma cannot fight – alone. The LGBT community cannot fight – alone. And the list goes on. Hate is hate, but we can overcome it together.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon! Thank you so much for coming today, and thank you, Secretary Clinton. Not only are you such an outstanding leader for our country – but you have been a caring friend. When I was facing the scariest moments of my life having been diagnosed with cancer, you called me and were the last phone call I got before surgery and I know that’s why I’m perfectly fine now. We Jews have a name for this. You, Madame Secretary, are a Mensch.
I also had the honor and luck to recently spend some time with you in Poland at the Community of Democracies. All the countries there look to you with such promise and admiration – they hung on your words, they all watched you talk, I think they were hoping some of your talent would rub off on them. I got to watch leadership as it is executed and exuded. How lucky was I that I got to spend that time with you?
I love my job. I have always been lucky to have the opportunity, the platforms, the support, the energy to be part of making a difference in people’s lives. The opportunity you have given me, Madame Secretary and President Obama, has me working with courageous non-profits around the world, learning from them what their needs are and strategizing with them on how to meet those needs. And being the Special Envoy provides me the opportunity to meet with and build relationships with Prime Ministers, with Foreign Ministers, with Chancellors and Ambassadors. And working in the State Department gives me the opportunity to work with dedicated and impressive people who have traveled all over the world and they work hard to find better ways to advance human rights, democracy, and world peace. American influence around the world stands up for, and fights for, the voiceless and the persecuted. We get to use diplomacy, relationship building, funding, and promoting democracy and human rights to all corners of the world. How lucky are we?
But in the little over six months that I have had the opportunity and honor to work for you, Madame Secretary, I have seen some disturbing trends. Trends that have led to dramatic increases in acts, attitudes, and expressions of anti-Semitism. These trends fall into six major categories:
Anti-Semitism can be seen in age-old canards and accusations – from Jews controlling the media or the banks, or plotting to control the world, or ancient blood libel in new forms, outrageously accusing Jews of killing people to steal their organs.
In addition to those bad old-fashioned forms of anti-Semitism, we see newer forms. Holocaust denial is spewed by heads of state and religious leaders. This is especially poignant since you and I just got back from Schindler’s Factory where Schindler was able to save the lives of so many right outside of Auschwitz-Birkenau – that incredibly efficient mass killing factory.
We also see Holocaust relativism, diminishing the Holocaust’s unique stories and lessons and conflating it with other repressive regimes. Holocaust relativism not only distorts history, it diminishes the accountability, the understanding, the lessons of how cultured people could become willing executioners hoping to annihilate an entire people.
We are even seeing Holocaust glorification where there are calls to ‘finish the job’ – on major television shows, in sermons, in written blogs.
While criticism of policies of any government is appropriate, especially among strong democracies, anti-Israel sentiment crosses over into anti-Semitism all too often. The famous human rights fighter Nathan Sharansky gives us guidelines to use to know when anti-Israel activities move over into anti-Semitism. He calls it the three D’s: when Israel is demonized, when Israel is delegitimized, or when Israel is held to a different standard than all other countries – that is when we feel the increase in anti-Semitism. Why is it that when there is activity in the Middle East we know to expect increases in anti-Semitism? Why is that normal? Why is that expected in our embassies and consulates around the world? Why is this happening? It is not OK, it is not acceptable.
The sixth trend that is impacting anti-Semitism comes from the fear people all over the world from many different backgrounds are feeling – fear due to financial pressures, fear due to lack of acceptance of diversity and change, fear due to the sense that the world is out of control, fear of the ‘other’.
But while Jews remain a despised people in some quarters, we are not alone. Our cousins, the Muslims, are also feeling the hatred, born of fear and ignorance. Christians are being expelled from some countries. Roma face incredible discrimination and abuse. Baha’is hide their faith in many countries. And the list goes on and on. Hate is hate and we have to work together to confront it, to combat it, and to eradicate it.
So what will success look like for this job of monitoring and combating anti-Semitism? Our monitoring has been integrated into the very fabric of the State Department – we highlight it in the annual Human Rights and International Religious Freedom Report. So people all over the Department focus on anti-Semitism as an integral part of our annual reports.
But how to define success in combating anti-Semitism is much harder. How to change age-old religious, racial and political hatred of Jews? Success for me will be measured by how many other people condemn anti-Semitism. It is not a Jewish problem – it is a problem for all of humanity. Success will be building coalitions, it will engage interfaith and inter-ethnic groups, especially young people – to recognize anti-Semitism, to call it out to condemn it, to demand that governments, non-governmental organizations, media, religious leaders and everyone condemn it.
Success is finding and highlighting groups working around the world who every day work to advance acceptance, respect and tolerance. Like the Three Faiths Forum – an NGO in the United Kingdom- where Jews and Muslims and Christians work in teams to visit every single high school. Like the Interfaith Youth Core, that is centered in Chicago but has programs around the world. They train interfaith teams of people to be future leaders for our world. Or Civitas of Bosnia, which helps interethnic groups co-exist and become media literate for their advocacy. Like the Ukrainian tolerance camps and tolerance clubs for teenagers, which bring together Jews, Muslims, Greek and Russian Orthodox, and many different ethnic groups to learn from each other and how to advocate on behalf of each other. And the list of best practices, thankfully, goes on and on.
Success is never overnight, especially for this age-old hatred, but we must use every single day to move the needle, confront the hatred and expand the table of discussion and conversation. That is my priority as your Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
So I have this wonderful platform to do just that. I work with so many of you out there representing Jewish, interfaith, and inter-ethnic organizations. I work with you United States government employees in advancing acceptance, respect and tolerance. And I work with this Administration’s leaders – so committed to making the world a better place for our having served.
How lucky am I?
I’ll tell you how lucky. As lucky as I am to work with Mike Posner, who is the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the rest of the DRL gang, my biggest and most wondrous contribution and achievement has been my incredible, beautiful, brilliant and extremely fun daughters, Shira and Francie, here with their loves, JP and Josh. How lucky I am to have my sister here? She would turn herself inside out if it would in some way alleviate pain for me. By my Aunt Sy and Cousin Joanie who represent my mother’s side of the family. And dad is here in memory only, in our hearts. Since he was the only survivor of his family from the Holocaust my family is quite small. Oh, how I wish my parents could be here today to help us all celebrate all this world mending we are doing together.
The Jewish tradition tells us that we are not required to finish repairing the world, but neither are we allowed to desist from doing our part. We have a lot of world fixing to do – and with all of the energy in this room, and with the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, we will get this done.
Thank you for this honor, for the trust you have in me, for the vision of what our world could be, for your caring. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, parliamentarians and honored guests, we have incredible work to do together. This conference is the largest meeting of its kind to take place, and it follows the successful 2009 inaugural conference, where the landmark London Declaration sought to draw the democratic world’s attention to the resurgence of anti-Semitism. That remarkable declaration encourages us all to build societies based upon respect and citizenship in order to combat manifestations of anti-Semitism and hatred.
I am here today to share with you the strong commitment of the United States to this cause. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. 72 years ago today, my father was arrested – on Kristalnacht – and sent with many of his congregants to prison and then to Buchenwald. He was the lucky one – every other person in his family perished at Auschwitz. I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my father could give me. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have elevated my office and integrated it into the workings of all other parts of the State Department. I get to work closely with the US Congress – and I want to recognize Representative Chris Smith – who not only helped launch the ICCA, but helped create the position I hold. His commitment to combating anti-Semitism is profound. He has dedicated his life to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and since his election to the US Congress, he has been an internationally renowned leader in the field of human rights and religious freedom.
I have been on the job for almost a year now – and I have seen six significant trends in the increases of Anti-Semitism around the world:
Traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to plague societies worldwide. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even accusations of blood libel. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jewish persons were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
Another potent trend is the growing Holocaust denials. It is coming from religious leaders in some places, by heads of State, in academic institutions in some places, and is a standard on several hateful websites and other media outlets. With the window closing on having survivors and liberators alive to tell their stories, there is urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
There is also growing Holocaust glorification – which can be seen in parades honoring the Waffen SS still living, in the growth of neo-Nazi groups, and is especially virulent in Middle East media – some that is state owned and operated – calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bonechilling.
And there is Holocaust relativism – where government agencies, museums, academic research and the like are grouping the lessons of the Holocaust with other repressive regimes, especially in the FSU and Argentina. While no one wants to get into dueling victimhoods – to combine these bad chapters of history is not only historically dishonest, it also misses opportunities to learn the different lessons. History must be accurate – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world.
And what I hear from our 194 posts around the world, and from our close relationship with NGOs in the US in other nations, opposition to a policy by the State of Israel morphs into anti-Semitism easily and often. We record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there is activity in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify – but if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions, when academics from Israel are boycotted – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. Our State Department uses Natan Sharansky’s framework for identifying when someone or a government crosses the line – when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized. These cases are not disagreements with a policy of Israel, this is anti-Semitism. The US is often the only “no” vote in international bodies who seem to have an obsession with condemning Israel.
The last trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and report on them in all 194 countries – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom report is set to go public next week, and the Human Rights report next year. The only issue that is comprehensively covered in both of those reports is Anti-Semitism. I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in their countries, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism – this will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism is all its forms. If we don’t chronicle it, we can’t fight it.
And my title calls for both monitoring and combating anti-Semitism. Combating this ancient hatred is daunting and calls for many different strategies.
My approach to combating anti-Semitism is to have non-Jews condemn it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, media.
Diplomacy – The United States maintains as a top priority the raising of anti-Semitism in the context of our relationships with other countries. Through bilateral l meetings and activities, we encourage other governments to take steps against anti-Semitic manifestations within their own societies. We ask governments to challenge acts of anti-Semitism, to speak out against and expose the hatred. We offer help with reporting and data collections. We encourage appropriate outreach by governments to members of Jewish communities. We also encourage governments to partner with us in multi-lateral institutions such as the UN, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OAS, EU And others, to those same ends. We are ready to work with governments that want to be part of the solution, and call out those that don’t.
Strengthening Civil Society – We promote public discussion on the nature of new forms of anti- Semitism – how to recognize it and ways to combat it, working with NGOs and human rights and interfaith groups to foster thoughtful and problem-solving discussions. We do not just confront intolerance, we actively promote tolerance. We participate in sustained dialogues with opinion leaders and policy makers about increasing levels of anti-Semitism and how it is insidiously entering mainstream media and public settings globally. We have begun the ART Initiative – ART standing for Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance – in which we identify and highlight interfaith and interethnic groups that focus on advancing acceptance, respect and tolerance with youth. As with everything, really, building strong relationships with civil society, with governments, with opinion leaders, is the way to change a culture – from fear and stereotypes to acceptance and understanding, from narrow-mindedness to pluralism, from hate to tolerance.
Education and Awareness . Educating our young is a priority – they are our future and will shape our world as we face the future. No government should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, or teach such intolerance as part of its educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to focus on this important issue and express our concern to the governments using such hateful lessons and textbooks, calling Jews the children of apes and pigs or promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We sponsor teacher training on the Holocaust – its particular uniqueness and its universal lessons. We help train law enforcement officials on how to identify, report and hold accountable individuals and institutions that engage in anti-Semitic activities. We use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about human rights, tolerance and democracy. We work hard to ensure internet freedom, learn how to condemn on-line hate, and stop its incitement to violence. We are also enhancing our cultural and educational exchanges to showcase our civil society organizations and engagement, and to learn from the successes of other countries.
Some examples of these diplomatic tools we use to combat anti-Semitism include:
To confront traditional forms of anti-Semitism, we raise the issues of blood libel accusations with prime ministers and foreign ministers, as well as religious leaders – urging all to make public statements condemning the rhetoric or activities identified
To combat Holocaust denial, we went to Dachau and Auschwitz with 8 leading imams, two of which had denial the Holocaust, and urged them to make a public statement condemning Holocaust denial and all forms of anti-Semitism.
To combat Holocaust glorification, we have involved media coverage and have reported examples to the highest level of governments.
To confront Holocaust relativism, we have requested changes in museums, memorials, and have met with academics to discuss historical honesty and accuracy.
To combat the demonization, delegitimization of Israel and holding Israel to different standards than all other nations in the world, we consistently vote NO and offer explanations of our vote to international bodies as well as institutions obsessing on Israel.
To confront hatred of ‘others’ and ultra-nationalistic movements that marginalize minorities, we help communities build coalitions and partnerships to help vulnerable populations move from isolation to having a voice.
We have all come here today to explore data and exchange best practices about the most effective ways to combat anti-Semitism around the world. Jews cannot eradicate anti-Semitism alone. Having the leadership of you parliamentarians from 50 countries, I remain hopeful that someday we will be able to relegate this relentless form of hatred to the dark annals of history.
Thank you for all you are doing and I look forward to working with you.