As we mark the liberation of Auschwitz, we remember the evil that men inflicted on one another. When President Bush visited the camp on May 31, 2003, he said:
This site is a sobering reminder that when we find antisemitism, whether it be in Europe or anywhere else, mankind must come together to fight such dark impulses. . . . And this site is also a strong reminder that the civilized world must never forget what took place on this site.The president is right. We must never forget.
Today on behalf of our nation, Vice President Cheney led a delegation to the ceremonies commemorating the liberation of the camp. Including in that delegation is Holocaust survivor, Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and Elie Wiesel, a man who himself survived Auschwitz and whose powerful book, "NIGHT," on his experiences there and in other camps is a must-read for all mankind.
They were joined by more than 40 heads of state, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac, Israeli President Moshe Katsav and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Israeli President said: "The mind refuses to comprehend what had taken place here. Auschwitz-Birkenau is human kind's worst ever crime site. The largest cemetery of the Jewish people."
He's right -- how difficult it is to grasp that human beings would murder millions of innocent civilians, including over one million Jewish children. And, alas, man's inhumanity to man continues. Just last night, I watched "HOTEL RWANDA," the story of a man who helped saved over 1,000 of his fellow countrymen in 1994 while another group of Rwandans massacred nearly one million men, women and children. By and large, the world stood silently by then as it had sixty years ago.
Yesterday, the Vice President spoke to the Survivors of Auschwitz, acknowledging the pain of their suffering and the lessons we must learn from the evil of Nazism:
As prisoners, you saw the face of systematic merciless cruelty, that killed innocent people of many nationalities and religious backgrounds, and murdered Jews only because they were Jews. But you also saw among your fellow captives great courage and acts of kindness. For six decades, you shared horror stories, recalling the horrors that you witnessed, keeping alive the memory of good people, righteous people, who did no wrong and who no man had any right to harm. Today many Holocaust survivors have children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. That, I believe, is the greatest victory of all. Evil did not have the final say. You survived terror. . . .We must never forget.
. . . these great evils of history were perpetuated not in some remote uncivilized part of the world, but in the very heart of the civilized world. Men without conscience are capable of any cruelty the human mind can imagine. Therefore we must teach every generation the values of tolerance and decency and moral courage. And in every generation, free nations must maintain the will, the foresight and the strength to fight tyranny and spread the freedom that leads to peace. Our presence in Krakow today, together with our European and Israeli friends, shows our determination to oppose antisemitism, religious intolerance, bigotry and genocide. We must face down hatred together. We are dedicated to the task at hand, and we will never forget. Let he who makes peace in the heavens grant peace to all of us.