‘Silence is complicity’: On Holocaust memorial day, Biden vows to fight antisemitism

US president declares week of remembrance for victims of Nazi genocide; recalls his visit last year to Yad Vashem, where he met with survivors; says, ‘We must never look away’

US President Joe Biden lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, July 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
US President Joe Biden lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, July 13, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

US President Joe Biden issued a proclamation Tuesday to mark Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, noting the horrors of the Nazi genocide as a “dark chapter of our history,” alongside the scourge of today’s antisemitism.

The proclamation declared April 15-23 a week of remembrance in the United States for the victims of the Holocaust.

Biden recalled his visit last year to Yad Vashem, where he met with two Holocaust survivors, highlighting the importance of listening to the stories of those who survived while they are still here to tell them.

“We remember the cries for help that went unanswered and the bright futures cut short. We must never look away from the truth of what happened,” he said. “The rite of remembrance becomes more urgent with each passing year, as fewer survivors remain to share their stories and open our eyes to the harms of unchecked hatred.”

During his visit to the Jerusalem memorial last July, Biden notably held a warm, extended conversation with Holocaust survivors Rena Quint and Giselle (Gita) Cycowicz.

The emotional US president told the women to remain seated, then crouched on one knee to speak with them and hear their stories.

US President Joe Biden speaks with Holocaust survivors Giselle Cycowicz (bottom-R) and Rena Quint (bottom-L), at the Hall of Remembrance of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, on July 13, 2022. (Menahem KAHANA / various sources / AFP)

Biden’s Tuesday statement also addressed the rising antisemitism in the US.

“Unfortunately, hatred never truly goes away. It only hides — lurking until it is given the oxygen to emerge again. We have seen this hard truth across our country, from swastikas on cars and antisemitic banners on bridges to attacks against Jewish people at schools and synagogues and outright Holocaust denialism,” the statement read.

“The venom and violence of antisemitism goes against all the values we stand for as Americans. And it is a stark reminder — as my dear friend Elie Wiesel once said — that ‘Indifference is always the friend of the enemy.’ And as my father taught me, ‘silence is complicity,'” Biden’s proclamation added.

Biden noted the steps taken by his administration to combat antisemitism, including the appointment of Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt as a special envoy on the issue, a national strategy to counter Jew hatred and co-sponsorship of a UN resolution to combat Holocaust denial through education. Biden also said that his administration secured the largest ever increase in funding for the security of nonprofits, which includes synagogues, Jewish schools and community centers.

Biden also noted that his administration held the first summit on fighting racist violence “because nobody should fear going to a religious service, wearing a symbol of their faith, or simply being who they are.”

Antisemites hang a banner over a Los Angeles freeway declaring ‘Kanye is right about the Jews.’ (Oren Segal, via Twitter/used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“Hate must have no safe harbor in America or anywhere else. Today and always, we make our message clear: Evil will not win. Hate will not prevail. And the violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time. Together, we can ensure that ‘never again’ is a promise we keep,” his statement read.

On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League and Tel Aviv University issued their joint Antisemitism Worldwide Report for 2022, which documented a sharp rise in 2022 in the number of antisemitic incidents in the United States and other Western countries, alongside a decline in several other countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

It also found that Haredi Jews are the main victims of antisemitic assaults in the West. Haredi Jews are the main victims of physical attacks on Jews outside Israel not only because they are easily identifiable as Jews, but also because they are perceived as vulnerable and unlikely to fight back, the report said.

The report featured data published last month by the ADL, which in 2022 recorded 3,697 antisemitic incidents in the United States, the highest-ever tally since the ADL began collecting incident data in 1979. The previous year was also a record year with 2,717 incidents.

Protesters wave swastika flags outside of Disney World in Florida on May 7, 2022 (Screen capture/Twitter)

The spreading of what the ADL termed “antisemitic propaganda by white supremacists” in the United States almost tripled in 2022 compared to 2021, reaching a total of 852 incidents.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is one of the most solemn dates on the Israeli calendar. Survivors typically attend remembrance ceremonies, share stories with teenagers, and participate in memorial marches at former concentration camps in Europe.

Remembrance events are due to continue Tuesday when a siren will sound for two minutes at 10 a.m. in memory of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, which typically brings Israeli outdoor life to a standstill: Pedestrians stand in place, buses stop on busy streets, and cars pull over on major highways, their drivers standing on the roads with their heads bowed.

Canaan Lidor contributed to this report.

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