US President Donald Trump delivers an statement about missile strikes on a Syrian airbase, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 6, 2017. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YOR K – Those who deny the Holocaust are accomplices to this horrible evil, US President Donald Trump said in a powerful keynote speech to the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance ceremony held in the capitol on Tuesday.
“Denying the Holocaust is only one of many forms of dangerous antisemitism that continue all around the world,” he said. “This is my pledge to you: we will confront antisemitism, we will stamp out prejudice, we will condemn hatred, we will bare witness and we will act. We will never ever be silent in the face of evil again.”
The week-long memorial event at the museum, which will end on Sunday, was first held in 1979 and then later established by Congress as a time for civic commemorations and special educational programs that help citizens remember and draw lessons from the Holocaust. By speaking at the annual ceremony, Trump joined a decadeslong tradition of presidents taking part in the event.
“I’m deeply moved to stand before those who survived history’s darkest hour,” the president told the many Holocaust survivors in the room. “You survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and the death camps, and you persevered to tell your stories.”
As president of the United States, Trump pledged to “always stand with the Jewish people” and with Israel.
“The State of Israel is an eternal monument to the undying strength of the Jewish people,” he added. “The fervent dream that burned in the hearts of the oppressed is now filled with the breath of life and the star of David waves atop a great nation arisen from the desert.”
Many in the Jewish community had been skeptical ahead of Tuesday’s speech. The president has been criticized for his handling of antisemitism and the relationship with the community.
In January, Trump gave a speech for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which omitted any mention of the Jewish people and most recently, earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had to publicly apologize for saying that Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons in the Holocaust.
In Tuesday’s address, Trump also paid tribute to survivor Elie Weisel, who past away last July, pointing out that this year marks the first remembrance of the Holocaust without him. “His absence leaves an empty space in our heart, but his spirit fills this room,” the president said.
As in every year, six candles were lit by Holocaust survivors, each accompanied by a member of Congress, in memory of the victims. The annual observance also recognized the American troops who liberated the Nazi concentration camps by opening with a procession of flags from each of the US Army divisions that were involved.