Laura Bush photo

Remarks by the First Lady on the 10th Anniversary of the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Opening of "Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story"

June 09, 2003

Thank you, Fred, Sara, Ruth and Professor Blom for bringing this remarkable exhibit to the United States. Thank you, Buddy, for your inspiring words and for sharing your memories of Anne with us. Thank you all for joining us to support this impressive museum and the preservation of history and memory. This museum is a tribute to those lost in the Holocaust and your support ensures it will remain a monument of remembrance.

As we celebrate the museum's 10th anniversary and the writings of Anne Frank, it is important to remember not just the stories of tragedy, but also the stories of survival. Thanks to the survivors who are here for sharing your stories and for teaching us history and hope. I once read that survivors were told by Nazi guards that no one would believe them when they told what happened to them. But we do believe, because of you and because of institutes of learning like this. More than 19 million people have begun a journey here - a journey of understanding about our past and our future. What this museum teaches is especially important today as we strive for peace in the Middle East and the world.

The impact of this museum extends far beyond its walls, as do the writings of Anne Frank. A simple diary given as a birthday gift from her dad became the greatest gift a young girl could give to the world. In this diary, Anne discovered the joy of writing and storytelling. And the world discovered that the words of one child can affect history and our hearts.

Anne Frank was a talented writer with wisdom beyond her years. Ironically, she never believed her words would matter. She wrote, "Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I've never written anything before, seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a 13-year-old schoolgirl." Today, The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most widely read books in the world. Translated into 70 languages, it is required reading for many students and often their first introduction to the Holocaust. I'm glad this exhibit will introduce us to more of Anne's remarkable work.

For many, no matter how much we read, we will never understand the Holocaust. I thought I knew my history, but when I visited Auschwitz a few weeks ago, I realized there are things textbooks can't teach. They can't teach you how to feel when you see prayer shawls or baby shoes left by children being torn from their mothers - or prison cells with the scratch marks of attempted escape.

What moved me the most though were the thousands of eyeglasses, their lenses still smudged with tears and dirt. It struck me how vulnerable we are as humans - how many needed those glasses to see - and how many people living around the camps and around the world refused to see. We see today, we know what happened and we will never forget.

These sites and the writings of Anne Frank remind us of the power of hate and the need to end discrimination in the world. Anne Frank wrote that we must hold onto our ideals in the face of prejudice. Each one of us can fight hate by educating ourselves and others about discrimination.

Otto Frank said, "We cannot change what happened anymore. The only thing we can do is to learn from the past and to realize what discrimination and persecution of innocent people means. I believe that it's everyone's responsibility to fight prejudice."

Every day survivors who volunteer here and across the country do just that. They travel to schools, reservations, and military bases to share their stories. Their commitment to educate inspires us to get involved in our communities. We can condemn acts of hatred and we can teach others that every person deserves respect. When we fight prejudice, we strengthen our democracy.

This is how we can honor Anne Frank and continue her legacy. All who come here will learn that words can make a difference. And by teaching and practicing tolerance, so can each one of us. Train tracks once led millions to their death, but education and hope, the hope of one little girl can lead us to peace. Thank you.

Laura Bush, Remarks by the First Lady on the 10th Anniversary of the Holocaust Memorial Museum and Opening of "Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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