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President's Commission on the Holocaust Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the Commission.

September 27, 1979

Mr. Chairman, the beauty of your words and the solemnity of your thoughts and the importance of the work of this Commission are all very impressive.

Eight months ago, I asked Elie Wiesel and a distinguished group of Americans, some from the Congress, to take on an awesome responsibility. Jim Blanchard of Michigan and others said they couldn't be here because there is a vote pending in the House, but they have served well, along with a broad cross-section of Americans who have gone into this effort with a great deal of dedication and who have produced a report that will solve problems and picture for us proper actions in the future.

This is an awesome responsibility that you have performed. I asked this group to recommend a fitting memorial in the United States to the victims of the most unspeakable crime in all of human history—the Holocaust. Rarely has a Presidential commission faced a more sobering or a more difficult or a more totally important challenge. This event of the Holocaust, the crime against humanity itself, has no parallel in human history. A philosopher wrote that human language itself breaks down when confronted with the monstrous challenge of describing this evil.

So, I want to pay a special tribute, on behalf of our Nation, to all those who have contributed to this effort and for the tremendous service that you've performed.

Your very work as a commission is part of a living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Your grappling with the meaning of this event has helped bring new understanding and moral vision to all who must confront this question. Your historic trips to the concentration camps in Eastern Europe and to Babi Yar in the Soviet Union have helped to arouse the conscience of the world and to remind us once again that we must never forget. And I know our country appreciates the fact that many of you went on those trips, not at Government expense, but at your own expense.

Out of our memory and understanding of the Holocaust, we must forge an unshakable oath with all civilized people that never again will the world stand silent, never again will the world look the other way or fail to act in time to prevent this terrible crime of genocide.

In addition to the Jewish people who were engulfed by the Holocaust simply because they were Jews, 5 million other human beings were destroyed. About 3 million Poles, many Hungarians, Gypsies, also need to be remembered. To memorialize the victims of the Holocaust, we must harness the outrage of our own memories to stamp out oppression wherever it exists. We must understand that human rights and human dignity are indivisible. Wherever our fellow human beings are stripped of their humanity, defiled or tortured or victimized by repression or terrorism or racism or prejudice, then all of us are victims. As Americans, we must and we always will speak out in defense of human rights at home and everywhere in the world.

And I might add that as Americans we must share the responsibility for, 40 years ago, not being willing to acknowledge that this horrible event was in prospect.

And I think that the action of this Holocaust Commission is long overdue, because we've not had a constant center which could be visited by Americans of all faiths and all races to be reminded of our omission in the past, to have the memory of this horrible event kept vivid in our minds, to prevent a recurrence of such an action anywhere on Earth in the future.

In view of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, it's particularly appropriate that we receive this report during the High Holy Days, just prior to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yore Kippur is a day and a time for looking back. It's a time for reflection. It's a time for remembrance. But it's also a time for the reaffirmation of life, a time for looking ahead.

So, I will consider this report most carefully and will respond personally to this Commission and to the people of our Nation with my personal prayer that the memory of the Holocaust shall be transformed into a reaffirmation of life. And as President, I can pledge to you that I will do everything in my power to carry out the recommendations of this report.

The Members of the Congress will be intensely interested in arousing support in our Legislature. And I'm sure the people of this country will be looking with anticipation to this reminder of the victims and also a warning that this horrible event will never again occur on Earth.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and all the members of the Commission.

Note: The President spoke at 2:15 p.m. at the ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House. Prior to the ceremony, the President met with Mr. Wiesel, Chairman of the Commission, in the Oval Office.

Jimmy Carter, President's Commission on the Holocaust Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the Commission. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/248475

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