President Barack Obama Monday pledged to remember the victims of the Nazi genocide during World War II.
Obama, speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, said that the nation must keep the memory of the tragedy alive but added that merely passing knowledge on to future generations would not be enough.
"Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture," Obama said. "Awareness without action changes nothing. In this sense, 'never again' is a challenge to us all -- to pause and to look within."
He added, "For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women. And we have seen it again -- madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself."
Obama said that pledging "never again" to holocaust survivors represents a challenge to reject hatred and bigotry in all its forms.
"'Never again' is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security -- and that includes the State of Israel," he said. "So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them."
He added, "When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them. When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them."
The pledge of "never again" also represents a challenge to the nations of the world who all too often have failed to prevent the killing of innocents on massive scales, Obama said, and pledged that prevention of genocide would remain a core national security interest for the U.S.
"That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there's an injustice in the world. We cannot and should not," he said. "It does mean we possess many tools -- diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion -- and using these tools over the past three years, I believe -- I know -- that we have saved countless lives."
Obama added that he planned to bring together senior officials within the government in a new Atrocities Prevention Board to better focus the U.S. efforts.
"Going forward, we'll strengthen our tools across the board, and we'll create new ones," he said. "The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide. We're going to institutionalize the focus on this issue."
He added, "Across government, "alert channels" will ensure that information about unfolding crises -- and dissenting opinions -- quickly reach decision-makers, including me."
The country, Obama said, needs to do everything it can to prevent and respond to such atrocities.
"We recognize that, even as we do all we can, we cannot control every event," he said. "And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience."
He added, "It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man's endless capacity for cruelty. It's tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do."
But the strength of the holocaust survivors who continued to believe in a better future despite the horrors they endured offers an example for the rest of the nation, Obama said.
"You show us the way. If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe," he said. "If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there's a place for dignity for every human being."
He added, "That has been the cause of your lives. It must be the work of our nation and of all nations."
by RTT Staff Writer
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