(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama declared the State of Israel to be the "ultimate rebuke" to the crimes perpetrated in Auschwitz and called for renewed vigilance against anti-Semitism, in a video message he delivered to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp.
"Every day the sun rises on the Jewish state of Israel - that is the ultimate rebuke to the ignorance and hatred of this place," he said.
Addressing the survivors who participated in the event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Poland Wednesday, he said, "The perpetrators of that crime tried to annihilate the entire Jewish people. But they failed. Because 65 years ago today, when the gates flew open, you were still standing."
He referred to the survivors as "living memorials" to the spirit the world should seek to uphold "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."
Obama expressed compassion for the survivors' experience, saying, "Those of us who did not live through those dark days will never truly understand what it means to have hate literally etched into your arms. But we understand the message that you carry in your hearts."
Obama, whose great-uncle helped liberate a concentration camp during his military service in World War II, called on the world to remember what the Nazis wrought.
"We have a sacred duty to remember the twisted thinking that led here - how a great society of culture and science succumbed to the worst instincts of man and rationalized mass murder and one of the most barbaric acts in history," he said.
He also recalled Jewish determination and resistance in the face of that barbarity, mentioning those who "died with Shema Yisraelon their lips," and the "great acts of resistance," including blowing up the crematorium.
US Ambassador the UN Susan Rice, speaking at New York's Park East Synagogue on Saturday ahead of Wednesday's commemorations, said that it was important not to let those horrors of the Holocaust "be seen as somehow remote or unfathomable" but still remembered as unique.
Noting the genocides in places including Cambodia and Rwanda, she said that there is still "nothing quite the same as the Holocaust's unique reach, its systematized spite, its murderous bureaucracy, its premeditated, purposeful, and planned malice."
She also pushed back against those who would view the perpetrators as "simply banal, as mindless cogs in the engine of mass murder" since each life was taken by sentient people. So too were the bystanders and governments who did nothing.
"We do not choose the circumstances in which we live, but we do choose
the way we respond to them. We choose. We all choose. Even in the face
of the most terrible tyranny, we choose," she declared in her address.
must choose to work together to expand the reach of decency, to resist
the preachers of division, to refuse to stand by lest innocent blood be