ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Blinken urges stand against antisemitism

Attorney General Merrick Garland cites his family’s refuge in US ahead of Holocaust, says Justice Department ‘is doing everything in our power to combat rise in hate-fueled acts’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waits behind closed doors before giving a joint statement with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly at a G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Karuizawa, Japan, April 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waits behind closed doors before giving a joint statement with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly at a G7 Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Karuizawa, Japan, April 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the need to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred in comments marking Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“On Yom HaShoah we remember and honor the six million Jews and the millions of others the Nazis murdered including Roma, LGBTQI+ persons, Slavs, and persons with disabilities,” said Blinken in a statement released by the State Department.

“We honor them not only as they died, but as they lived, fought, and loved,” he added. “We mark their lives in their richness and complexity as we mourn the traditions, knowledge, histories, and families lost. We find in their memory the strength to stand against all forms of antisemitism, hatred, and bigotry, and to insist the Holocaust is remembered and taught accurately.”

Blinken concluded by stating that one of the “most powerful lessons” learned from the Holocaust is that “the mass murder of six million Jews was not a sudden or singular act, but rather the culmination of countless incremental steps designed to vilify and dehumanize people. That’s why we must remember now, and always.”

Blinken also shared a video he recorded for the World Jewish Congress telling the story of his stepfather, Holocaust survivor Samuel Pisar, the only member of his family and of his 900-person school to survive the war.

The secretary of state has spoken often about Pisar’s experience and the impact it has had on him, including his first speech following his nomination, and his opening remarks at his confirmation hearing before the Senate.

Pisar, a native of Poland, was imprisoned in concentration camps for four years and escaped a death march as the war was ending. While hiding out in the woods, he heard a tank approaching, and realized it was not Nazi forces but US troops.

“And so he ran to the tank and got to it. The hatch opened. An African-American GI looked down at him. He fell to his knees and said the only three words that he knew in the English language that his mother had taught him before the war: ‘God bless America,'” Blinken said during his confirmation hearing to become secretary of state. “The GI lifted him into the tank, into freedom, into America.”

He told the gathered senators at the time: “That is who we are. That is what we represent to the world, however imperfectly, and what we can still be when we are at our best.”

In his own remarks Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland also hailed the United States as a place of refuge and noted it as his motivation to serve.

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks, April 17, 2023, at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Each of us came to the Department for different reasons. For me, it was to repay the debt my family owes to this country for our very lives,” Garland said at the 30th Annual Federal Inter-Agency Holocaust Remembrance Program. “Before World War I, America gave my family refuge from religious persecution that allowed them to survive the Holocaust when World War II came.”

Garland recounted that his grandmother and two of her siblings made it from the US to Belarus, and “two did not make it. They were killed in the Holocaust. If not for America, there is little doubt that the same would have happened to her.”

Garland also highlighted efforts to combat rising antisemitism in the US.

“Indeed, hate crimes against Jews comprised the majority of religion-related hate incidents reported in 2021,” he noted. “The Justice Department is doing everything in our power to combat the rise in hate-fueled acts and threats of violence.”

“We do this because we all know what happens when hate is allowed to take root. We do this to ensure that a tragedy like the Holocaust never happens again,” he added.

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