The legacy of the Holocaust endows us with a double duty. First, we must not allow the memory of the six million to be trivialized. Human history is rife with atrocities, massacres, and wars, but nothing be equated with the enormity of the Holocaust. It is profoundly, unbearably,unique. But, paradoxically, our second duty is to prevent another Holocaust from occurring.
Imagine if one third of the Jewish people had not been annihilated. Imagine the doctors, the researchers, and the artists. Imagine the grandchildren and great-grandchildren flourishing throughout the world today. That is what we mean when we pledge ‘Never Again.’
Yes, we must cherish the fact that we live in a time when there is a proud and sovereign Jewish state. We must appreciate that state’s remarkable accomplishments in science, technology, and the arts. And we must value the historic alliance between Israel and the United States. Things are indeed different than they were eighty years ago.
Yet, at the same time, we must also acknowledge that evil did not appear suddenly in the 1930s and depart in 1945, never to return again. We must admit that the genocidal hatred of Jews that burned during those years remains a fierce andre-combustible scourge. We cannot ignore the similarities between the conditions that fostered the Holocaust and those we nowwitness daily.
Consider this: Eighty years ago, the world was scarcely in the mood for confrontation. People were weary from the devastating losses of a recent war. Economies were in crisis. Unemployment was high, foreclosures commonplace. People were focusing inward, grappling with their own problems.
Meanwhile, a radical militant movement dreamt of regional and global domination. Headed by a Supreme Leader, the movement burnt books and crushed its democratic opponents. It amassed vast arsenals of advanced weaponry and invaded neighboring countries. The radicals played on their nation’s injured pride and stressed its racial superiority. The movement denigrated the Jewish people as a cancer that had to be cut out.
Today, too, there is such a radical regime in Iran. It also has a Supreme Leader. It also butchers its democratic opponents, supports terror,and seeks regional and global hegemony. The Iranian regime similarly espouses racism. It denies the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis while pledging to murder another six million—in Israel. And to achieve its abominable goals, Iran is developingmilitary nuclear capabilities and the missiles to deliver them.
Fortunately, today is not eighty years ago. Though tired of war and wrestling with economic difficulties, the United States is not watching passively. On the contrary, the White House and the Congress are leading the world in imposing harsh sanctions on Iran.
President Obama has said that the United States will not contain a nuclear-armed Iranand keeps all options on the table. And Israel, the President said, has the right to defend itself against any Middle Eastern threat. Only Israel can decide how best to protect its citizens.
We must never equate the Holocaust with any other event but we also must never let it recur. Equipped with nuclear arms, Iran could blackmail the world—overrunning its major oilsources and endangering the lives of millions. We must not compare the Holocaust to any other situation but, at the same time, we cannot forget. We now have the opportunity—indeed, the duty—to confront Iranian leaders with the unambiguous choice never posed to the Nazis. The Iranian regime can either abandon its military nuclear program or face truly crippling sanctions and a credible military threat.
We have a dual duty and the theme of this year's Days of Remembrance--the stories of rescuers--reminds us of that obligation. These inspiring stories are immortalized at Yad Veshem, Israel's national Holocaust memorial and research center, which for fifty years has honored those righteous Gentiles who risked their lives--and often their families' lives--- to save Jews. Those heroes understood with all their souls the horrific uniqueness of the Holocaust.
So, too, do the survivors and World War II veterans who knew first- hand the horrors of Nazism. My father, who is present in the Rotunda today, was one of those GIs. He battled from Normandy to the Bulge to the final victory, winning two bronze stars for valor. Not only as your son, but as Israel’s ambassador to this great nation, I want to say thank you, Dad, and thank you to all the brave Americans who fought alongside you.
Rescuers, survivors and veterans—their mere presence warns us against equating the Holocaust with any other atrocity. Yet, they urge us to prevent the Holocaust’s recurrence. They remind us to be vigilant, they tell us to stand strong. And they exhort us, always, to remember.